Britons baffled by incomprehensible technology

New research also finds that Yorkshire & Humberside is the most tech-savvy region in the UK
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor on

British consumers are in danger of tech burnout, according to figures unearthed by a new study, which found that the general public is aware of more and more high-tech products but does not understand what they are or how they relate to daily life.

The findings come as the high-tech industry is undergoing a phase of soul-searching following the bursting of the dot-com bubble over the past year. High-tech growth coasted on its own hype for several years, say industry observers, but has so far achieved only a few inroads into the lives of ordinary people -- among them the mobile phone and email.

The new figures add substance to these observations: out of fifteen technologies, including the home PC, the Internet, WAP phones and digital television, respondents over 16 used no more than two and planned to buy just one in the next year.

Other items on the list included GPRS (general packet radio service) and UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications system), multimedia wireless technologies on which telecoms networks are relying to provide their future incomes. Also included were PDAs (personal digital assistants, or personal organisers), interactive TV, TV-based interactive shopping, digital video recorders such as TiVO, DVD, MP3 players, games consoles and in-car navigation systems.

The study covered 1,029 adults in the UK.

Initiative Media Futures, a division of London-based Initiative Media, said adults are aware of high-tech advances because of media hoopla, but don't understand what the gadgets have to do with them.

"Manufacturers need to stop the hype and actually try and educate people more," said Juliet Mathers, Initiative Media Futures' regional research manager. "They need to tell them why the products are relevant rather than bandying around technical terms."

Contrary to stereotypes, men were not significantly more techie than women -- they were aware of ten out of 15 products but only had a good understanding of five, used two and planned to buy one in the next year. Women were aware of eight out of fifteen, used one and planned to buy one.

The only age group that planned on buying more than one high-tech product in the coming year was the 25-34 age group.

Londoners might be surprised that they are not the most technology-aware region, however: London and the South-East took second place to Yorkshire & Humberside.

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