Microsoft 'benchmarks' UK attitudes to computers

In a new report published on Monday, Microsoft says it has 'benchmarked' UK attitudes to information technology - finding a high level of awareness of IT, but a narrow view of its importance among key audiences.

Business people tend to view PCs purely as a business device and are sceptical about their wider leisure and educational benefits, according to the survey. Internet usage is also found to be very low amongst all respondents in all target groups.

Most alarmingly, the survey found that only 24 per cent of teachers said their schools provided access to the Net and 58 per cent of teachers have never accessed or used the Web. This finding is underlined by the teenage view: less than half think teachers are predominantly responsible for informing them about technology.

There is little evidence in the report that mothers who stay at home are plugging the gap in their children's knowledge as the survey found the very lowest level of Internet usage was among housewives. Incredibly, Microsoft found 99 per cent of all housewives over the age of 35 have never used the Internet.

Microsoft director of marketing services Shaun Orpen said: "There has been lots of talk about IT in Britain's schools and in business... The time for action is now. Britain is on a cusp and we must exploit the opportunity." One major priority is to increase PC home ownership to levels similar to that of the United States (40 per cent of all American homes as opposed to 20 per cent of UK homes) if "a picture of Britain starting to embrace the vision of the future" was to be achieved.

The Department of Trade and Industry would not be drawn on Microsoft's call for action but said it welcomed the report. "Such research is vital in enabling us to analyse the progress of the UK in optimising the benefits of information and communications technologies," it said.

The survey was conducted by NOP and gathered 1,200 responses from four types of person -business people, teachers, teenagers and housewives.