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Statistical bulletin: Internet Access Quarterly Update, Q1 2012

Key points

  • At 2012 Q1, 8.12 million adults (16.1 per cent) had never used the Internet. This is about 1 per cent lower than 2011 Q4 and 7 per cent lower than 2011 Q1.
  • There were 42.16 million adults (83.7 per cent) who had ever used the Internet at 2012 Q1.
  • Men (86.1 per cent) were more likely to be Internet users than women (81.3 per cent).
  • By region, the South East had the highest rate of Internet users (86.9 per cent); Northern Ireland was the lowest (75.1 per cent).


This is the fifth in a series of quarterly releases about Internet use by adults aged 16 years and over. Internet use is linked to various socio-economic and demographic characteristics, such as age; sex; disability; geographical location and weekly earnings. For example, adults who are less likely to have used the Internet include the elderly and disabled.  

The estimates in this release are derived from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). These estimates are experimental. ONS developed these statistics to meet the needs of users, most notably 'Raceonline 2012'. Our key user is now Go On UK, a new organisation that has been set up to continue the work of Raceonline 2012 , but still with the main objective of encouraging more people to start using the Internet. There is a particular interest and focus on those who have never used the Internet.

On 31 August 2011 ONS published the annual 2011 Internet Access – Households and Individuals statistical bulletin. The estimates in the annual bulletin are more detailed, but are derived from the National Statistics Opinions survey, which has a smaller sample size than the LFS. Therefore comparisons made between this quarterly release and the annual publication should be made with caution. Although the annual survey provides more information on Internet use than this quarterly update, the estimates of levels from the quarterly survey on Internet use and non-use, due to the larger sample size of the LFS, should be considered to be more accurate.

User engagement

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Users and non-users

At 2012 Q1 there were 42.16 million adults in the UK who had ever used the Internet, representing 83.7 per cent of the adult population. The 8.12 million adults who had never used the Internet represented 16.1 per cent of the adult population.

There was a decrease of 83,000 adults (1 per cent) who had never used the Internet since 2011 Q4 and a decrease of 618,000 (7.1 per cent) compared with a year earlier (2011 Q1).

Age (Table 1)

Age has a sizeable effect on an individual's likelihood to engage with the Internet. Almost all adults aged 16 to 24 years (98.6 per cent) had used the Internet (7.16 million people). In contrast, only 27.4 per cent of adults aged 75 years and over had ever used the Internet, representing 1.26 million people.

The 3.35 million non-users aged 75 years and over made up 41.2 per cent of the 8.12 million people who had never used the Internet at 2012 Q1.

There were small decreases in the numbers of non-users in all age groups apart from those aged 75 years and over, where there was an increase of 87,000 (2.7 per cent) at 2012 Q1, compared with 2011 Q4. However, ONS would advise users to treat this change with caution as the change in the value of this particular estimate (see background note 6) could be due to sampling effects alone.

Internet users by age group (years), 2012 Q1

Internet users by age group (years), 2012 Q1

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Sex (Table 1)

At 2012 Q1, there were 21.21 million male and 20.94 million female Internet users. Men were more likely to have used the Internet than women, with 86.1 per cent of men having ever used the Internet compared to 81.3 per cent of women.

There were 1.42 million more women than men who had never used the Internet; 4.77 million women compared with 3.35 million men.

These trends have been similar since the first quarterly survey was undertaken at 2011 Q1.

Internet users by sex

Internet users by sex

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Disability (Table 1)

At 2012 Q1, there were 4.04 million disabled adults, as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), who had never used the Internet. This represents 34.6 per cent of those who were disabled and just under half of the 8.12 million adults who had never used the Internet. Of those adults who reported no disability, 10.6 per cent (3.94 million adults) had never used the Internet. This indicates that individuals with a disability are approximately three times more likely never to have used the Internet than individuals with no disability.

Internet non-users by disability status

Internet non-users by disability status

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Age and sex (Table 2)

Table 2 presents estimates of Internet users and non-users by age group and sex. The table shows that whereas Internet non-use was relatively similar for males and females aged 16 to 64 years, Internet non-use differed for adults aged 65 years and over. For example, whereas 33.4 per cent of males aged 65 to 74 years had never used the Internet, the corresponding total for females was 43.4 per cent, a difference of 10 percentage points. This difference grows to 14 percentage points for males and females aged 75 years and over.

Internet users by age group (years) and sex, 2012 Q1

Internet users by age group (years) and sex, 2012 Q1

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Regional distribution (Table 3)

The South East had the highest rate of Internet use with 86.9 per cent of adults reporting that they had used the Internet, closely followed by London at 86.5 per cent. Northern Ireland had the lowest proportion of Internet users, at 75.1 per cent. The estimate for Northern Ireland is markedly lower than all other regions, but is an increase on the first estimate of Internet use in Northern Ireland produced at 2011 Q1, of 70.9 per cent. All regions have shown an increase in Internet use over this period (2011 Q1 to 2012 Q1).

Internet users by region

Internet users by region

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A mapping tool is available for viewing the 2012 Q1 results, by region and the UK as a whole. The mapping tool can be used to illustrate how, in each region, the number of people using the Internet has changed from 2011 Q1, as well as enabling comparison with other regions.

Earnings (Table 4)

Table 4 presents a breakdown of Internet users and non-users by gross weekly pay. Of those adults in employment whose gross weekly pay was less than £200 per week, 6.9 per cent (367,000) had never used the Internet. Internet use has almost reached full coverage for those earning in excess of £500 a week, with Internet use nearly 99 per cent for all adults with weekly pay rates above this level.

Internet users and non-users by gross weekly pay, 2012 Q1

Internet users and non-users by gross weekly pay, 2012 Q1

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Background notes

  1. Key issues specific to this bulletin

    This is the fifth in a series of quarterly releases about Internet use by adults aged 16 or over. The results in this release are in respect of 2012 Q1 (January to March 2012). ONS began publishing quarterly data on Internet users and non-users to enable more timely information on Internet use to be made available. The source of the information is the Labour Force Survey (LFS). A quality report for the LFS (52.1 Kb Pdf) is available on the ONS website. 

    The new question added to the Labour Force Survey in 2011 Q1 was 'when did you last use the Internet?' This is the same question that has been used in the Opinions Survey to collect data for the annual publication 'Internet Access – Households and Individuals'

    The term ‘disabled’ is used to refer to those who self-assess that they have a disability in line with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) definition of disability. Respondents who did not answer whether they had a disability have been included in the category 'No disability' in Table 1.

    For 2012 Q1, an additional question was posed to respondents who had never used the Internet, in their fifth and final wave of their LFS interviews. This resulted in a sub-sample of approximately 20 per cent of those respondents who said they had never used the Internet being asked: “Is this because you have problems using computers or the Internet?"  Those aged 75 years and over are only interviewed once in the first wave of LFS interviews, and were therefore not asked the additional question. These data can be made available on request.

    ‘Don’t know’ responses are not separately identified in this bulletin. As such, percentage breakdowns sum to less than 100 per cent, reflecting the small number of ‘don’t know’ responses to the Internet use question.

    This quarterly release was previously published as an article for the periods 2011 Q1 to Q4. From this quarter onwards, the release will be published as a statistical bulletin.

  2. Experimental Statistics 

    The estimates in this article are experimental statistics. When new questions are added to the LFS, standard practice is for the question to be asked for four quarters before results are published. However, in order to satisfy user needs these quarterly estimates were released earlier than they would normally have been. 

  3. Revisions 

    There are no revisions to estimates previously published.

  4. Users and uses of the data

    The organisation Race Online 2012 was established to help more people get online for the first time by 2012. Race Online 2012's need for more frequent statistics on people who had never used the Internet, could not be met by the annual Internet Access Survey. Therefore, ONS started publishing an experimental quarterly update on Internet users and non-users. This quarterly release has been expressly designed to fill an information gap and meet the needs of this key customer.

    By the very nature of its name, Race Online 2012 was due to end this year. Go ON UK is a new partnership organisation which has been set up to build on the success of Race Online 2012. Its aim is to get the final 8.1 million adults online.

    Within the UK there is wide interest in these quarterly estimates from researchers, public bodies, the media, charities and academics. In the last 12 months there has been particular interest in statistics about adults who don’t use the Internet, which have been used to inform debate about social and digital exclusion. As drawn attention to by Consumer Focus, the statutory consumer champion for England, Wales, Scotland and (for postal consumers) Northern Ireland and a known user of these quarterly estimates, "a growing gap exists between those who are online and those who are not, as the Internet becomes more of an essential utility for consumers. The best deals are often online only and people could save hundreds of pounds each year by accessing these online discounts".

    Do you make use of our quarterly estimates of Internet Access? If yes, we would like to hear from you ( and understand how you make use of these quarterly statistics. This will enable us, in the future, to better meet your needs as a user.

  5. Coherence 

    The results published in this quarterly bulletin focus on Internet users and non-users. These results are not directly comparable with the estimates contained in the 2011 annual Internet Access bulletin, which was published on 31 August 2011. The annual bulletin contains a wide range of information about Internet access and use, but from a smaller sample than the LFS. The 2011 annual bulletin was compiled from approximately 3,300 interviews conducted for the National Statistics Opinions survey, whereas approximately 43,000 households respond each quarter to the LFS. The larger sample size in the LFS allows for more detailed and accurate socio-demographic analysis than is possible with the Opinions dataset. 

    It is also important to note that the estimates in this bulletin are on a UK basis whereas the Internet Access 2011 results relate to Great Britain only. 

  6. Sampling variability

    The 2012 Q1 confidence intervals table shows estimated 95 per cent confidence intervals for estimates relating to Internet users and non-users, by age and sex. The estimates come from survey data and so have a degree of statistical error associated with them. Confidence intervals are an indication of the reliability of the estimate; the smaller the interval, the more reliable the estimate is likely to be. With regards to ’95 per cent confidence intervals’, we mean that if we repeated our survey 100 times, 95 per cent of the time (95 times out of 100), the true population value would fall within the range of these confidence intervals.

    Internet non-users: 95 per cent confidence intervals, 2012 Q1

      Never used the Internet
    Lower limit    Survey estimate Upper limit
    All (thousands)             8,097                  8,121              8,145
    All (per cent)               15.8                    16.1                16.4
    Age group (years; thousands)      
    16-24                 67                       67                   67
    25-34                126                     126                 126
    35-44                319                     320                 321
    45-54                794                     798                 802
    55-64             1,287                  1,297              1,307
    65-74             2,144                  2,167              2,190
    75+             3,289                  3,347              3,405
    Age group (per cent)      
    16-24                0.7                      0.9                  1.1
    25-34                1.3                      1.5                  1.7
    35-44                3.4                      3.8                  4.2
    45-54                8.6                      9.1                  9.6
    55-64               17.2                    18.0                18.8
    65-74               37.5                    38.6                39.7
    75+               70.8                    72.5                74.2
    Sex (thousands)      
    Male             3,335                  3,348              3,361
    Female             4,752                  4,773              4,794
    Sex (per cent)      
    Male               13.2                    13.6                14.0
    Female               18.1                    18.5                18.9

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    In all tables totals may not equal the sum of independently rounded components.

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