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MORI survey uncovers major new trends in web use in the UK


A new MORI survey published today is the first to take a wide-ranging look at the issues of reliability of information found on the Internet, and the extent to which users feel they can trust the information they find there.

The reputation of an organisation and the trustworthiness of the content of websites are important factors in people’s attitudes, the survey found. Information provided via the websites of more established organisations such as museums, libraries and archives are most likely to gain a great deal or fair amount of trust from people. This is particularly the case in comparison to more commercial websites such as utility companies, travel agencies and Internet-only retail companies.

Among the other findings uncovered by the survey, commissioned by the Common Information Environment (CIE) group, were the following:

• Most of the population is aware of the Internet to some degree, with just under half of all respondents (49%) saying they know at least a fair amount about it

• 92% of Internet users say that reliability of content is an important factor, including 63% saying it is very important

• Home is the place from which people most commonly access the Internet, with 80% of current users saying that they go online most often from there

• 53% of all respondents go online at least once a week, including 30% who do so every day

• 3% of users access the Internet via mobile phones or GPRS as their preferred means of access.

• Over half of all current users (54%) of the Web use it as their preferred information source. In addition, some 59% of all those surveyed are confident about Internet use, and three quarters of respondents say that they find it easy to get access to the Internet.
In addition,

• With the potential of the Internet as a learning tool, the survey also reveals the public’s attitudes to lifelong learning.

Encouragingly, the overwhelming majority of people surveyed agree that it is important for adults to continue to learn as they get older (94%). Importantly most see a role for the Internet in learning new things (83% class the Internet as an important learning tool).

59% of those who have ever used the Internet search for specific information in connection with a hobby or interest, while 40% have done so in connection with their own education, and 25% in connection with their own children’s learning.

The survey also points to a growing “digital divide”, a gulf between different groups of users based on gender, employment, class and educational attainment. Men, people aged 16-54, who work, come from social classes ABC1, and have a formal educational qualification are more likely to be Internet users, the survey finds, than women, people aged 55+, those not in work, from social classes C2DE, and people who do not have a formal educational qualification.

At the same time, findings from the survey suggest that use of the Internet may be prone to lapsing as people move from education and training (where learning providers supply the means of access for those without ready access elsewhere) into work. Once again, the implications for the wider agendas of lifelong learning, e-Government and active citizenship would appear to require concerted political action.

Dr Paul Miller, Director of the CIE, welcomed the findings, saying: “The Common Information Environment is all about public sector organisations working together in order to make the online experience more educational, entertaining and enriching than it is currently. Individually, CIE members each serve large parts of the population. Together, their audience is every man, woman and child in the UK.

"The commissioning of this research is an excellent example of that cooperation, and its results clearly demonstrate the high regard in which organisations of the type represented by CIE members are held by the public, and the importance that they place in being able to access authoritative, high quality content via the Internet.”

Chris Batt, Chief Executive of MLA and the Chair of the CIE, said: “This new study is a goldmine of information on users’ (and non-users’) perceptions of the Internet and the resources and services it offers. Anyone interested in how this new medium is changing our daily lives will want to see these data, and the report provides the Common Information Environment partners with vital new insights that will direct and focus our future work programmes.”

The results are highly encouraging for the Common Information Environment group, a coalition of public sector information organisations, whose task it is to help create a cross-sectoral partnership to realise the full potential of the Internet for all UK citizens. These organisations include those funding this research; the British Library, DfES (Department for Education & Skills), JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), MLA (Museums, Libraries & Archives Council), and SLIC (Scottish Library & Information Council).

Content of the type provided by these organisations is of precisely the kind that respondents to the survey recognise as trustworthy, reliable and of high quality. The challenge now, the survey suggests, is for Government to actively tackle people’s misconceptions and a real skills gap in certain parts of the population, whilst capitalising upon a clear preference for trusted knowledge resources.

Philip Pothen | alfa
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