Thinking about using the social web to do democratic things…..

Facts Glorious Facts (2011)

This page is an update of the previous version and now includes the OFCOM Marketing report of August 2011 as well as the 8th Hansard Audit of political engagement (March 2011).  I have also included the helpful comments I had from people after I last published the page.  I have also written an update post which covers the OXIS 2011 report.

Large disclaimer that I am not a statistician still stands as does the fact that as a result I really can’t comment in detail on the robustness of these stats – however as I am concentrating on very reliable sources we should be in safe hands (fingers crossed). I am also not saying that these are the only answers to my statements – I just like these ones…..I will be reviewing them over the next few days so please feel free to contact me if you think there are corrections to be made.

What am I interested in?

Before I get into quoting numbers and throwing in the odd chart or two I need to explain what data I am actually after. My facts really fall into three broad areas:

  • Who’s online? And by implication who’s not?
  • What are they doing there?
  • Exactly how democratic are they online and elsewhere?

When I did the first version of this page I was interested in smartphones – that has only got more acute as the smartphone take up has rocketed as has the mobile device share of online time.  I’m not yet going to split out tablets into a separate section – maybe next time when they have reached a wider demograpic.  As you will see I have kept previous results in for comparison

Who’s online? And by implication who’s not?There are a few sources here that haven’t changed beyond updates:

What are they doing there?

The best source of data for the is the Oxford Internet Institute study (OXIS)- our answer to the marvellous Pew Reports - though the specific OFCOM Communications report on Internet use is also very helpful.  The OXIS is taken every 2 years and is due again this year – its a comprehensive look at what people are doing online includes far more civic content that the larger scale OFCOM stuff.

Exactly how democratic are they online and elsewhere? For democratic behaviours I am looking at the Citizenship Study from the CLG as well as these two reports from the Hansard Society:

And the Networked Neighbourhoods Study is of course still relevant which I wrote about in more detail here.

Smart phones because they are SO 2011….. In terms of the smart phone stuff its probably back to OFCOM with their communications market reports which holds such lovely facts.  The first to highlight is the graph below which is showing the sharp growth in smart phone sales:

OFCOM smart phone take up 2011 What’s also interesting is the trend with respect to what people are using their smartphones for.  The chart below shows the growth in the people using their phones to access the internet:

Use of smartphone And you can see how this compares to other places people connect:

The ONS Q2 report has use of mobile phone (note not just smartphone) for internet access to be 45% of the population.

Given the recent riots and the role that smartphones played in them (which I wrote about here) its useful to note the breakdown in terms of handset use:

smartphone brand choice 2011 As you can see iPhone is the most popular brand of smartphone, but BlackBerry wins in the younger market.  This, combined with the fact that a lot of this group are accessing the internet via their phone should make mobile websites (not necessarily apps) a priority for anyone concerned with digital inclusion. And this is what they do with those phones:

internet time on phoneAnd here then is  a grand crescendo of smartphone facts:

    • There has been a huge growth in smartphone take-up and use in the past 12 months. Twenty-seven per cent of UK adults now claim to own one, with 59% of our sample having bought their phone in the past year (and the volume of data transferred over the UK’s mobile networks increased by 67% during 2010).
    • Smartphone users have a much stronger relationship with their phone than regular mobile users. When asked how addicted they are to their mobiles phones, 37% of adult smartphone users admitted high levels of ‘addiction’ to their phone, with this rising to 60% of teen smartphone users.
    • Smartphone users get more use from their phone than regular mobile phone users. 81% of smartphone owners make and receive calls on their mobile everyday compared to 53% of regular mobile phone users, while 79% claim to send and receive SMS texts every day, compared to 50% of regular mobile phone users – this is driven by a higher proportion of smartphone users being on a contract.
    • Smartphones are changing social habits and etiquette. Over half (51%) of adult smartphone users say they use their phone while socialising and nearly a quarter (23%) use their smartphone during a meal with others. Eighty-one per cent say they have their phone on all the time, while 22% use it in the bathroom – both significantly higher than among regular phone users.
    • Teens (aged 12-15) who have grown up as part of the ‘always connected’ society appear to have different standards of social etiquette to adults with greater willingness to use their phone in a public place (63% of teens vs. 44% of adults) and less concern about disturbing others (64% of teens wouldn’t use their phone if it disrupted others, compared to 81% of adults).
    • The growing functionality of smartphones is affecting people’s other leisure activities. Over half (55%) of adult smartphone users claim to be doing less of other activities, now that they have a smartphone. This is even greater among teens, with 68% of teen smartphone users claiming to do some activities less than before, such as playing games on a console/PC (30%), taking photos with a camera (30%), using a PC to access the internet (28%), watching TV (23%), and reading books (15%).
    • Smartphones have merged people’s home and work lives. Among smartphone users who work, 30% regularly use their phone at work for personal calls, while 35% regularly use their phone for work calls while ‘off duty’. Twenty-four per cent say they use their phone for work while on leave.
    • Over half of 15–34 year-olds and one-third of 35–54 year-olds have used their mobile to access the internet. Growth in the take-up of the internet on mobile devices is strongest among AB households, up 14 percentage points in 2010, compared to only a two percentage point increase among DE households (page 325).

But now on to more general Facts facts facts…..

I’m going to organise this in terms of statements that I am making or questions that I am raising in the course of research or presentations and then a suggestion as to some supporting facts. Feel free to quarrel at the end. Some of these statements are fairly obvious – they just need substantiating if you are being thorough.

Internet use is still growing within the UK

Below are the current stats from OFCOM on Internet Use:

latest UK internet numbersAnd some basic facts from the latest report:

  • Take-up of broadband has continued to increase and in Q1 2011 stood at 74%. Virtually all homes with a computer are now connected to the internet. Take-up of mobile broadband continues to rise and now stands at 17%. While the majority of mobile broadband connections are purchased in addition to a fixed broadband connection at home, 7% rely solely on a mobile broadband service.
  • UK consumers continue to purchase new communications technologies. Over a quarter (27%) of adults in the UK say that they now have a smartphone, with the majority claiming to have purchased one in the past year. A third (32%) of homes now claim to have access to HDTV channels in their living room

However you should also see the range of availability of different types of internet services:
I think there is a need to split that broadband figure into fast / standard broadband – I know from personal experience that access to fast broadband is difficult in rural areas.

Social networking continues to be the fastest area of growth in terms of internet take up OFCOM show social networking as being the fastest growth area for internet users (OFCOM 2011)

OFCOM social media takeup And I was intrigued by this chart showing people’s ‘most missed’ media by demographic and wondering how it relates to Clay Shirky’s belief that our habit of being passively entertained by the television is just a blip – he may be right:

most missed media

The OXIS 2009 has a useful breakdown of different communication types online which shows the huge growth in use of social networking:

And there is now this more recent data from OFCOM:

You can see the comparable stats from the ONS Q2 2011 report here:

  • Social networking proved to be the most popular activity among 16 to 24 year old Internet users in 2011, with 91 per cent saying they took part in social networking on websites such as Facebook or Twitter. However, this was not an activity limited to the younger age groups, with almost one fifth (18 per cent) of Internet users aged 65 and over indicating that they participated in social networking. Overall, social networking was more popular among women, at 60 per cent, than men, at 54 per cent.
  • Men were more likely to participate in professional networking over sites such as LinkedIn in 2011, with 16 per cent of male Internet users having used this online facility compared to just 9 per cent of women. It was most popular among those aged 25 to 34, with 18 per cent using these sites.
  • Using the Internet to sell goods or services, for example via auction sites such as eBay, saw large growth in 2011. Over 12 million people, at 31 per cent of Internet users, sold goods or services online, compared to 7.9 million (21 per cent) in 2010. Just under half of those aged 25 to 34 (45 per cent) used the Internet for this activity.
  • Just over one in five (21 per cent) Internet users made telephone or video calls online in 2011.
  • This activity is one which is not dominated by a specific age group, with older age groups showing similar patterns of use to the younger age groups. Of those aged 65 and over, 17 per cent used this technology, compared to 22 per cent of those under 24.

These trends can be demonstrated across different demographic groups

Growth of social networking sitesBut there is a generation gap:

  • There are significant differences in take-up of communications technologies between younger and older age groups. While 98% of those aged 16-24 use a mobile phone, older people are far more reliant on a fixed line phone, with only half of those aged 75+ (51%) having a mobile.
  • Among those aged 65-74, five years ago only four in ten had internet access at home (42%), but by 2011, this had risen to over half of this age group (55%). However, still only a small minority (26%) of those aged 75+ have the internet at home in Q1 2011 (up from 15% in 2006).
  • Watching television is the dominant regular media activity, both for those aged 16-24 and those aged 75+, but there is significant variation across other measures. The most marked difference between the age groups was in use of the internet via a computer or laptop – 83% of 16-24 year olds said they did this regularly, compared to 13% of those aged 75 and over.
  • There is a strong relationship between privacy concerns and the age of the internet user; users aged 16-24 are far more likely than those aged 65+ to say that they would be happy to share photos online (61% vs. 14%), while older users are less confident in judging whether a website is truthful (58% of 16-24s vs. 21% of over- 65s).

Facebook beats everyone:

Or even: There are some signs that PC use of Facebook may be levelling off but also indications that the traffic is just moving to mobile devices.  That doesn’t of course say much with over 90% os social networking time being spent on Facebook:

So – one of the big questions we have to ask ourselves are whether we are seeing a Facebook phenomenon or a social networking one?  I think the latter but its worth keeping that question in mind.

Its also interesting to note that this has not just been passive growth as there are increases in levels of content creation (again from OXIS 2009):

Is backed up by this: More than a quarter of over 55 year olds have uploaded photos – this participation thing is not just the ‘young people’.  Its also encouraging (for someone who wants to see more civic websites) that the growth in the overall number of people who have set up a website.

Digital exclusion – not to be forgotten

(Its definitely worth have a look at this CLG site if you want to look at digital exclusion area by area – many thanks to @Noelito for sharing this.  Apart from that I have not updated this section as I think this data still stands – but definitely worth considering the smartphone stats while you read this section)

I think need to balance all of this good news with some more grounding facts about digital exclusion…..One of the key findings from the CLG report was the lack of a link between social and digital exclusion. However “it seems that offline social isolation makes engagement with the social aspects of the Internet very unlikely. Similarly, economic disadvantage makes engagement with the financial and government services offered through the Internet very unlikely. In summary, individuals with specific disadvantages appear to be excluded from the very applications of technology that could help them most. In order to support this conclusion the report mapped this in terms of expected and unexpected exclusion: This same report shows a typology of 11 types of internet engagement and puts Civic activities at the highest level of this (they break them in 3 stages): And here are some more quotable but slightly less robust figures from the Guardian Article – I am sure they are good but need cross checking with other sources:

  • Ten million of us in the UK have never used the internet.
  • Four million of those who are offline are society’s most disadvantaged: 39% are over 65.38% are unemployed – 19% are adults in families with children.
  • 40m adults in the UK use the web, and 30 million of us do so daily.
  • Worldwide, we send 55m tweets via Twitter a day. In the UK alone, 25m of us are on Facebook. 16m people watch TV or listen to the radio via the web. Millions of us now use sites like Meetup.com to get together offline in our local communities.
  • 3.1m over-65s go more than a week without seeing a friend, family or neighbour and half of all internet users say the web increases contact with friends who live further away. Yet 6.4m over-65s have never used the internet, with 63% of them saying they ‘see no reason’ to get online.

And now on to more civic stuff

The OXIS 2009 has some other interesting stuff around civic participation:

  • One fifth (21%) of Internet users undertook at least one civic action on the Internet, compared to one third (34%) of users who had done this offline.
  • The most frequently undertaken activity online continued to be signing a petition. 15% of Internet users signed an online petition in 2009 (v. 7% in 2007), and 20% of users did this offline (down from 25% in 2007).
  • Deliberately buying certain products on the Internet increased; 7% did this in 2009 (v. 2% in 2007) and 15% did this offline. The only other online civic activity that has gone up significantly was contacting a politician, from 2% online in 2007 to 8% in 2009.
  • While retired people were less likely to be Internet users, once they were online they were more likely than students or employed users to be civically engaged.
  • 33% of retired users undertook at least one online civic activity in 2009, compared to 21% of employed and student users. Retired people were similarly likely to participate in these types of activities offline: 30% undertook at least one activity compared to 32% of employed users and 34% of students (this may change this year!!!!)
  • In 2009, there were no major differences between student, employed and retired users in interaction with the government online. 56% of retired, 59% of employed and 57% of student users have undertaken such an activity online.
  • There were no large differences between the groups in offline political participation; 41% of students, 39% of employed and 38% of retired people interacted with government services offline.

This is all from page 47 onwards and worth taking a more detailed look but the general point is that it is not true that online civic activity is the province of younger people. This can be contrasted with data from the citizenship survey (April 2010) which also talks about participation more generally:

  • Thirty-one per cent of adults in England engaged in civic participation at least once in the 12 months prior to interview; fewer than in any previous year of the survey.
  • 38 per cent of people felt they could influence decisions in their local area; levels are unchanged on all previous years apart from 2001 when it was higher (at 44 per cent).
  • Although unchanged since 2009-10, there have been reductions in the proportion of people feeling that it is important for them to be able to influence decisions (72 per cent in April-June 2010 from 79 per cent in 2007-08 and 78 per cent in 2008-09) and the number of people who would like to be more involved in local decision making (42 per cent in April-June 2010 from 50 per cent in 2007-08 and 49 per cent in 2008-09).

This figure of 38% of people feeling that they can influence decision-making processes in their area with the figure of 59% from the Networked Neighbourhoods research.

Hansard 8th Audit of Political Engagement

I’m going to quote at length here as the report focused both on local participation and also on readiness for the Big Society – both of which are of interest to me.  The local participation highlights are here:

  • Almost seven in 10 people (69%) claim they are interested in how things work in their local area, a higher level of interest than for politics more generally (58%).
  • There is a strong correlation between those who are interested in politics and those who are interested in how things work locally: 86% of those interested in politics are also interested in the workings of their local area. But it is also true that almost half (48%) of those who are not interested in ‘politics’ are interested in the way things work locally.
  • Over half of the public (54%) say they do not know ‘very much’ or ‘anything at all’ about how things actually work in their local area while 46% say they know at least ‘a fair amount’. This is lower than the 53% that say they are knowledgeable about politics.
  • People are far more positive about the efficacy of getting involved in their local community than they are about getting involved in politics. Around half of the public (51%) agree that ‘when people like me get involved in their local community they really can change the way their area is run’, while one in five people (21%) disagree. This compares favourably to the one in three (30%) who agree that they can change the way the UK is run by getting involved in politics and 44% who disagree.
  • Two in five (39%) of those who do not think they can change the way the UK is run by getting involved in politics do think they can change the way their area is run by getting involved in their local community.
  • More people are positive about how things work in their local area than in Britain as a whole. Around half the public (49%) believe that how things work in their local area ‘could not be improved’ or could ‘be improved in small ways’ (47%), whereas only three in 10 people (31%) say the same about the system of governing Britain.

The Big society section highlights the existence of a group they call ‘willing localists’:

  • The proportion of people who want to get involved in decision-making in their local area has fallen by five points to 43%; in contrast the two in five people (42%) who want to be involved in national decision-making remains stable.
  • Only one in 10 people say they will ‘definitely’ spend some time doing some form of voluntary work at some point in the next couple of years.
  • 53% of the public actively say they will ‘definitely not’ volunteer for a trade union, 48% for a political party and 42% for a church or religious group.
  • Those aged under 45 (particularly those in the 25-34 age bracket); those in the highest social grades (ABC1); those with children; and those who tend to vote for the Liberal Democrats are the groups consistently more likely to be willing to spend time doing voluntary work.
  • Overwhelmingly, motivation to volunteer and get involved seems to be rooted in a sense of personal self-interest. When asked under what circumstances people would be encouraged to get more involved in their local community the most common responses are: ‘if I felt strongly about an issue’ (40%); ‘if it was relevant to me’ (33%); ‘if I had more time’ (28%); and ‘if it affected my street’ (25%).
  • ‘Willing Localists’, comprising 14% of the GB adult population, are probably the key target group for the success of the Big Society. They are not actively involved in a wide range of community and socio-political activities but seem the most willing to do so and are those most likely, realistically, to become so in the future.
  • Two-thirds of the ‘Willing Localists’ group are women and they are more likely than other groups to have children in their household (44%). Otherwise they are fairly evenly spread across the adult population with a close to average profile on age, social class and ethnic group.
  • To have any chance of being successful the Big Society concept needs to be kept away from contested or political associations. The language also needs to be re-tooled. ‘Society’ is perceived in broad, nationwide terms and is therefore less likely to generate public interest and engagement; an emphasis on ‘local community’, reflecting a more personalised focus is needed.
The chart below shows this clearly:

This Hansard typology of the public in a political context is also helpful:

  • Group 1: Onlookers (20%) – happy with the political system but feel no urge to be involved themselves.
  • Group 2: Satisfied but Unenthusiastic (15%) – are broadly content and not very interested in further involvement.
  • Group 3: Already Active (14%) – strongly engaged and interested in doing more.
  • Group 4: Willing Localists (14%) – not already actively involved but seem willing and likely to become involved in most community activities, at least locally.
  • Group 5: Disengaged and Apathetic (14%) – disengaged without being negative, and with no interest in being more involved.
  • Group 6: Alienated (12%) – have strongly negative views and little interest in being more involved.
  • Group 7: Exaggerators (11%) – say they want to be more involved but may well be over-claiming.

Or more visually:

The chart below shows the overall picture in terms of whether or not people want to get involved:

Willingness to get involved (Hansard)

but as you can see that get involved is not really talking about political involvement:

Getting involved

At some point we are going to have to have a conversation nationally about the fact that the biggest barrier to community participation may be the idea that you’ll meet a politician doing it….

Digital engagement

One of the most detailed source of data from my point of view is the Hansard Society’s Digital citizens and democratic engagement report which has not changed with headline facts as follows:

  • 70% of respondents agree that the internet makes it easier for them to participate in civic and political activities
  • 49% agree that they would generally prefer to use the internet to participate in civic and political activities
  • Age is not a barrier to digital engagement when it comes to contacting one’s elected representative
  • People aged 55-64 are the age group most likely to contact their MP online (54% did so), and people aged 18-34 were more likely to use the telephone (including mobiles and texting) than any other age group

This is a relatively small sample (2003) but broadly representative demographically. The big draw back is that the sample was 100% internet users which means that we have to remember that this is not going to speak for the digitally excluded. However this is not a major issue given the Digital Exclusion report finding that there is no strict pattern to digital exclusion which means that we can take these results as acceptably robust for the population. Al that being said participation numbers are high when compared to the larger Hansard study:

  • Voted in an election 78%
  • Signed a petition 76%
  • Donated money to a campaigning organisation 37%
  • Took part in a protest or demonstration 15%
  • Joined a campaigning organisation 14%
  • Joined a political party 11%
  • Donated money to a political party 9%

Overall it supports the conclusion that the internet is a Good Thing when talking about civic and political participation.

PHEW

I’m working on statistics all week so let me know if I have missed something….

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