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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 20:31 GMT
Women catch up on net use
computer
Traditional divisions are levelling out
Women are catching up with men when it comes to logging on to the internet, according to research.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show a steady increase in the number of people using the internet in Britain.

But the number of women using the web leapt 12% on last year compared with a minimal change in figures for men.


Income is still a strong determinant of internet access in the home

Statistician June Bowman
The results of the Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS) showed an estimated 9.7 million households could access the internet from home between July and September 2001.

As in previous years, usage depended on income, age, sex and location, and the figures showed the poor, the elderly, women and people living in the north of England were less likely to be online.

Click here for a regional breakdown

But statistician June Bowman, who compiled the figures, believes the divisions are getting smaller.

"The figures show the increases are beginning to slow down and the penetration rate is beginning to plateau," she told BBC News Online.

"Income is still a strong determinant of internet access in the home."

Christmas boost

Over half of adults in Britain, some 24 million people, have accessed the internet at some time.

The 9.7 million internet-able households represents 39% of the nation's homes and is up four times on the figure three years ago.

Ms Bowman says previous surveys have shown that figures rise in the New Year - presumably as people start using new PCs and high-tech Christmas gifts.

The survey results of 1,700 households for the quarter show:

  • home computers are the most popular means of accessing the internet;
  • the main reason for access is for goods or services - flights and holidays are the top purchase;
  • 25% do not buy online out of security fears - but only 4% have had problems;
  • 18% believe they do not have the skills to use the internet.

    The figures can offer some guidance for companies considering going online.

    With shopping at the top of the web users' list, e-commerce partner at Ernst and Young, Tim Gordon, says it is now the survival of the fittest - which means brand recognition.

    "We're starting to see that the more dominant players are the recognised brands that the consumer likes to do business with," he told the BBC.

    "I think the internet has to be part of any company's strategy. What we're seeing is that people trust brands and if you have an online and an offline store, people will spend more with that brand."

    Home use is still the most popular means of accessing the net, followed by a friend's or work computer.

    Internet access via technology such as digital television and mobile phones is still relatively rare.

    But it remains to be seen whether the 40% of people who have never used the net because they are not interested will be tempted to join the cyber-society.

    A spokesperson from the Office of the e-Envoy said: "We welcome this research, it is very encouraging that the number of people with internet access continues to grow."




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  • See also:

    11 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
    Women lead UK online growth
    01 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
    High prices cost broadband dear
    28 Nov 01 | Business
    Europe to punish broadband laggards
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