Official figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this month have displayed the huge advances the UK has made in embracing the digital age.
The ONS have looked at how internet behaviour has changed over recent years, and the general picture is overwhelmingly that people in the UK are using the internet more and more.
The number of people using the internet on a daily basis has more than doubled in the past eight years with 37.6million logging on every day. This figure is based on adults alone and totals 76% of the adult population, an increase of 41 percentage points from 2006.
Broken down by age, every age range has seen an increase in internet usage with the biggest jump being amongst the 55-64 age group. In 2006, only 36% of this age group used the internet daily compared to 74% in 2014. Over 65s have also seen a huge increase in internet usage with just 9% logging on daily compared to 42% now. The highest usage is amongst 25-44 year olds with 86% going online every day, followed by 16-24 year olds with 79%.
The number of households with internet access has also vastly improved, increasing annually for the past sixteen years.
When internet-search giant Google was founded in 1998, only 9% of UK households had access to the internet, and in 2004 when Zuckerberg founded Facebook, only 49% had internet access. Today, in the year that Google have started selling their wearable smart-spectacles, Google Glass, and the year that Facebook spent $19billion on instant-messaging app WhatsApp; 84% of UK households have internet access.
That’s not all that has changed though, as the statistics show that internet use ‘on the go’ has risen in recent years too.
Internet use on mobile phones has increased by 34 percentage points since 2010 with 58% of people using the web on their phones. Broken down by age, almost 9 out of 10 young people use the internet on their phone with 87% doing so. This compares with 11% of over 65s which is still an increase of 9 percentage points in the past four years.
When tablets and laptops are taken into account, the figures for ‘on the go’ usage increases further with 68% of people using the internet whilst out and about. The highest usage is amongst people aged 16-24 with 96% followed by 90% of 25-34 year olds.
In addition to data on access, the ONS figures also offer an insight to how people are using the internet.
The number one usage of the internet was for sending and receiving emails with 75% of the population emailing. This is followed by finding information on goods and services (73%), accessing online news (55%), and social networking (54%). Also featured highly is online banking (53%) and playing or downloading games, images, film or music (44%). 23% of the population use the internet for selling goods and services.
By age group, the most notable figures are that 91% of 16-24 year olds use social networking, 73% of 25-34 year olds access news online and that 75% of 55-64 year olds use the internet for emailing and for finding out information on goods and services.
In addition to these common uses, 10% of the population use the internet for making appointments with their GP.
All of these activities have seen an increase over recent years, particularly reading the news online which has increased from 20% in 2007 to 55% in 2014, and also online banking which has increased from 30% in 2007 to 53% in 2014.
With regards to submitting sensitive data online (often an area of criticism for a potential online voting option), the ONS data confirms that the population is comfortable with submitting such data online and does so on a great scale.
In addition to the 53% of us banking online, the ONS figures show that almost three-quarters of the UK population (74%) have shopped online with 87% of those transactions involving the provision of credit or debit card details over the internet. The goods bought vary from clothes (49%) to holiday accommodation (36%) and groceries (23%).
This year, 32% of the adult population have used the internet to complete and submit official forms.
So that is a lot of data (that is easy to become lost in) which supports the fact that the country has entered the digital age and has become digitalised. More and more of us are using the internet than ever before and millions of us are shopping, banking, reading and socialising online. However, whilst it is clear that an internet revolution has taken place, this data further outlines the stagnation in our democratic process in which our method of voting remains much like it was 142 years ago, as a pencil and paper activity, behind a curtain in a building that most people will rarely visit otherwise throughout the year.
Perhaps, in a decade from now we will be examining the year on year increase in online voting numbers.
Access the Office for National Statistics ‘Internet Access – Households and Individuals 2014’ statistical bulletin here.
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