ONS publishes latest figures on internet access and use: what you need to know

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its latest report today on Internet access and use in Great Britain, including how many people have internet, how they access it and what they use it for.

This comes hot on the heels of last week's report from Ofcom on our communications habits which has plenty of data to get your teeth into, including:

  • 78% of the UK population own a smartphone (up from 17% ten years ago)

  • 20% of adults are online 40 hours a week or more; the UK average is 24 hours per week

  • 77% of people have a social media account

You can read more in a really good summary of this report written by Dan Slee.

photo credit Federica Galli

photo credit Federica Galli

The ONS also published at the end of May their report into Internet use in the UK for 2018 (with data on age, sex, disability and geographical location). Key highlights included:

  • In 2018, 90% of adults in the UK were recent internet users, up from 89% in 2017

  • 8.4% of adults had never used the internet in 2018, down from 9.2% in 2017 (more than half are 75 years old and over)

  • Virtually all adults aged 16 to 34 years were recent internet users (99%) in 2018, compared with 44% of adults aged 75 years and over

  • 20% of disabled adults had never used the internet in 2018, down from 22% in 2017

  • Recent internet use in the 65-74 age group increased from 52% in 2011 to 80% in 2018, closing the gap on younger age groups

  • Recent internet use by retired adults has increased by almost 25 percentage points since 2011, to 64% in 2018

Today's ONS report follows on from this, with more on how we are using the internet.

89% of adults use the internet weekly, but older people are still behind the rest of the population

As in previous reports, the vast majority of adults in Great Britain are using the internet, with 89% accessing it at least weekly in 2018, up from 88% in 2017 and 51% in 2006. 90% of households in the UK have internet access; in 1998 that was just 9% and in 2008, 65%. Fixed broadband has continued to be the most popular type of connection since 2015; 98% of users in 2018 use it.

While older adults in Great Britain use the internet less, this number is growing. Households with one adult aged 65 years and over had the lowest proportion of internet access, at 59% in 2018. However this is up 23 percentage points since 2012, compared with growth of 10 percentage points in all households.

Accessing the internet is now part of our daily lives

Since 2006, the percentage of adults who use the internet daily has grown from 35%, to 86% in 2018. In 2018, among all adults, 78% used mobile phones or smartphones to access the internet. These were the most popular devices across most age groups, apart from those aged 65 years and over, who reported a tablet as the most popular device used to access the internet, at 42%.

In 2018 77% of adults had used the internet “on the go” using a mobile phone, smartphone, laptop, tablet or handheld device. 

Despite the popularity of smartphones, 26% of adults who use them did not have smartphone security and a further 24% did not know if they have security installed.

Email still rules

The most popular activity on the internet is still accessing email, with 84% of adults sending or receiving email online. 

46% of adults watched videos on demand from commercial services (such as Netflix) in 2018, up from 29% in 2016. Video viewing on YouTube (or similar) is also on the rise, up 15 percentage points from 47% in 2016 to 62% in 2018.

Women are more likely to use the internet for social networking (69%) compared with men (60%), and are also looking for health-related information more (59%) compared with men (50%). 

Online banking has shown yearly growth over the last decade, with 35% of adults banking online in 2008, rising to 69% in 2018.

Online shopping rises, but not by much, except in the older generation

In 2018, among all adults, 78% bought goods or services online in the last 12 months, up 1 percentage point since 2017 and 25 percentage points since 2008. 95% of those aged 16 to 24 years and 96% of those aged 25 to 34 years shopped online in 2018, while adults aged 65 years and over who showed the lowest proportion of online shopping at 48%. However, this age group has shown the largest increase in this activity, with three times as many over 65s shopping online in 2018 compared with 2008. 

Clothes or sports goods were still the most popular online purchase in 2018, bought by 55% of adults. Household goods (for example, furniture, toys, vehicles and so on) were the next most popular items, purchased by 48% of adults. Holiday accommodation was purchased by 42% of adults.

Most employed adults believe they have the necessary computer skills for work

In 2018, of all employed adults aged 35 to 44 years, 83% used computers or portable devices at work, the highest proportion across all age groups. Of those aged 16 to 24 years, 51% had needed to learn how to use new software or computerised equipment in the last 12 months for their jobs, compared with 15% of employed adults aged 65 years and over.

In 2018, employed respondents were asked to select one out of three statements that best described their skills relating to the use of computers, software or applications in work. Most respondents felt they already possessed the required skills to do their job well (70%).