Recently published data from the National Readership Survey (NRS Jan-Dec 2010) tell us that an important milestone in the history of the internet has been reached. For the first time, three quarters of the adult 15+ population of Great Britain have accessed the internet in the past 12 months.
The NRS started asking about internet access in 1997 when 14% of the population claimed to be online. Within just five years, this figure increased rapidly to 50% and a further eight years on the 75% milestone has now been reached. The online population has risen steadily and sharply over time, albeit at a marginally slower rate over recent years.
Further analysis shows that there is an age and class divide when it comes to who has online access. Those aged over 55 and the ‘working class’ (C2DE) are less likely than the population as a whole to be online.
The primary purpose of the NRS is to provide readership estimates for the newspaper and magazine publications it measures, but it is also a valuable source of information about changes in the British population, given that it has been running continuously for over 50 years (see also our ‘We’re getting even more upmarket’ Light Bite).
The NRS also shows us how the nation’s use of IT and telecoms is growing over time. In 1997, a quarter of GB adults (25%) claimed to have a computer in their home; the proportion now is two-thirds (67%), half of whom (34%) have at least two PCs/laptops. We also now have 75% of adults claiming to have broadband access at home. Back in 1997, 20% of us said we had a mobile phone; today, around 9 in 10 of us (87%) have a mobile and smartphones are particularly on the rise (20%).
All this is pointing in the right direction for the Government’s vision for a Digital Britain. In its 2009 report, the DCMS laid out a three year plan to boost the country’s digital participation, which included making the net more affordable as well as striving for universal broadband access. This is positive news for the wider goal of boosting the digital economy, but these latest results also show that perhaps there is still a bit more to do with the old and the poor to get the remaining 25% online.