The latest ONS internet statistics, posted by Race Online on Friday, give an update on the rapid growth of internet access in the UK, with a few points of interest for hyperlocal bloggers.
The headline is that 1.2 million people accessed the internet for the first time since August last year. 77 per cent of the population had accessed the internet in the three months before the survey and 60 per cent use the internet every day. As you would expect, web access decreases with age, but even so over 30 per cent of over-65s are online every day.
Young people are leading the way in mobile phone web access but it is the most common way to access the web wirelessly for all groups – making it worthwhile to check your website looks OK on a mobile web browser. This is especially useful if people are going to look up your website after seeing a poster out and about; don’t irritate them by giving them something flashing that sprawls all over the place. In a WordPress blog, you can go to Appearance > Extras and tick the box that says “Display a mobile theme when this blog is viewed with a mobile browser”.
Statistics can tell some poignant stories. The report says that while 92 per cent of single people have used the internet, this falls dramatically with widowed adults at just 32 per cent. Internet use is also lower amongst people who have an illness or disability, or lower income. Of course, for all those groups there are many people who have overcome barriers to the web, many with the help of UK Online Centres and others. For groups who may suffer from isolation in the real world, accessing the internet is a way to connect people with social opportunities and information.
With mainstream media rarely covering ones own high street, hyperlocal blogs and the chance to connect with neighbours could become a big driver for online audiences. But people won’t find their way onto your site on their own. Bloggers need to find any excuse to have a gathering and get people to knock on their neighbour’s door to bring them along. Plus, we should do more with these roaming youngsters with all the mobile interwebs. I still love the work described by David Bovill at the last Talk About Local unconference. He put a group of people into a room with a cup of tea, surrounded by projected images from laptops, and connected them up with kids on bikes via streaming Skype video feeds. It sounds incredibly high-tech, but is quite easy with the right tools. The possibilities are endless…
It’s really important that as more people go online, we don’t leave behind the people who aren’t there yet.
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