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Britain is a nation of Net tourists

We, the semi-connected

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Almost a half (47 per cent) of UK households now enjoy Net access, according to the latest government statistics.

According to statistics from the April 2003 National Statistics Omnibus Survey, published today, 11.7 million of the UK's 24.9 million households are connected to the Internet.

And an estimated 54 per cent of British adults used to Net in the three months preceding the survey, a rise of five percentage points over figures from the equivalent survey last year. Internet penetration into UK homes has almost doubled in the last three years

Step aside Silver Surfer Dude

Net usage is most popular among young adults, with 78 per cent of 16-24 year olds saying they had used the Net in the three months prior to interview. This figure declined with age. Only 16 per cent of pensioners aged 65 and over went online during the survey period.

Differences in Internet usage between the sexes was less pronounced. Fifty seven per cent of men compared to 51 per cent of women had used the Net during the survey period.

But men are more likely to access the Net frequently. Half the men who accessed the Internet at all did so every day compared with 38 per cent of women.

Internet use at home is most common in the South East and East of England where more than half of households have Net access and lowest in Northern Ireland (just 35 per cent of people can get online from home there).

PC is still the daddy

The vast majority (98 per cent) of people quizzed during a survey had used a PC to get online. Of these a quarter had used a laptop while just eight per cent said they had used a mobile phone to access the Net. Net access via other methods - such as digital television - was also reported, but by too few people to give reliable estimates.

Most people accessed the Net from home (82 per cent) with surfing from work (45 per cent) or a friend's home (24 per cent) also commonplace. Surfing from a place of education (17 per cent), public libraries (10 per cent), or Internet cafes (eight per cent) were also commonplace Net-access locations.

Only 17 per cent of households with Net connections used broadband. Dial-up telephone connections - used by 81 per cent of Internet-connected households - still predominate.

Killer aps

E-mail remains the killer ap. Of those Britons who use the Net, 85 per cent use it for email. But four in five (80 per cent) also use the Internet for getting information about goods and services, while 69 per cent use it to search for travel and accommodation info.

Almost half of those who accessed the Net used it for some type of e-commerce transaction.

The most popular purchases were travel, accommodation and holidays (bought online by 54 per cent of those who bought anything on the Net over the last year), tickets and events (41 per cent), books, magazines or learning materials (40 per cent), and music and CDs (38 per cent). Electronic equipment (17 per cent) and computer hardware (15 per cent) were also common enough purchases among online customers quizzed during the survey.

Of those who flashed the plastic online over the last three months, 38 per cent reported spending a total of £100 or less over this period while 22 per cent spent £500 or more.

We, the unconnected

Of course, half (51 per cent) of people accessing the Net bought nothing online during the survey period. Preferring to shop in person (30 per cent), having no need to buy goods online (24 per cent) or security concerns (23 per cent) were cited as reasons for avoiding online purchases by e-commerce refusniks.

This still leaves the 40 per cent of adult Britons who have never used the Net. Lack of interest in the Net, the absence of an Internet connection and lack of confidence in using Net technology were cited as the main reasons for living without the Net technology by this group. ®

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