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A third of college students and young professionals feel that the internet is as important as air, food, water or shelter, according to a new survey.

Cisco's 2011 Connected World Technology Report (PDF) found that 32 per cent thought the web was as important as the necessities of life, while over half of students and 62 per cent of employees in their 20s said they couldn't live without it.

The global report looks at the next generation of the workforce and how they are going to perform in a connected workplace. The study concluded that:

Students and young professionals share similar perceptions on the importance of the internet. For most, accessing the internet through their computer is their primary information and news source and an integral part of their daily life.

In fact, the internet is so important to the 'yoof', it can prove a distraction. The need to check Facebook, answer an IM or phone call or go on some other social media is so strong that 43 per cent of students worldwide said they were distracted three or more times an hour when they were supposed to be doing their homework.

British, Australian and Canadian students were the most easily engrossed, with nine in 10 students leaving the books for the siren call of social media once an hour.

The survey also found that eight in 10 students check their Facebook at least once a day and 73 per cent of young employees do the same.

"The results of the Cisco Connected World Technology Report should make businesses re-examine how they need to evolve in order to attract talent and shape their business models," Marie Hattar, VP of enterprise marketing at Cisco, said in a canned statement on the results.

The study took an online survey of 1,441 college students and 1,412 employees under the age of 30 in 14 countries. ®

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