UK public embrace IT but shun tech hype

A new survey finds that many British households are happily buying new IT devices, but are often unimpressed by marketing razzmatazz

The British public is still unimpressed by the hype that often surrounds new technology, despite the high take-up of PCs and mobile phones, according to a report published on Wednesday. Only a quarter of the UK adult population can be classed as "technology enthusiasts" who find new IT products fun and exciting, according to RealityIT -- Technology and Everyday Life, a study from the Work Foundation's iSociety project. The study concludes that 42 percent of UK adults are only interested in IT because it can benefit their everyday lives. These people, dubbed "quiet pragmatists" by the Work Foundation, use the Internet as a way of keeping in touch with family and friends and have little interest in interacting with online communities. They like mobile phones -- but are unlikely to ever use WAP. Functionality, not innovation, is what encourages a quiet pragmatist to buy a new piece of IT. Crucially, according to the Work Foundation, it is the quiet pragmatists -- not early adopters -- who dictate which technologies are successful. "They are a silent, sizeable minority, and their reaction to change is critical to the diffusion of information and communication technology," claims the iSociety report. The Work Foundation also found that almost one in three UK adults are sceptical of technology and are reluctant to use it. Even though 28 percent of these people own a home PC, and 60 percent own a mobile phone, they are uneasy about the rapid pace of change in technology, and are often opposed to services such as email. For such people -- who according to the survey are often manual workers -- buying an IT product is "a task undertaken out of grim necessity, with little or no pleasure in purchase," according to The Work Foundation. Technology enthusiasts are the people who are excited by new gadgets and devices. Making up 27 percent of the UK adult population, these people often say that technology is an important part of their lives and are the first to buy new gadgets. Such people are vital to the IT industry, as they will rush to the shops to invest in the latest handheld computer or to buy the latest software products. The Work Foundation claims, though, that more pragmatic people -- who stay on the sidelines when a new IT product is launched -- who in the long run determine which technologies become integral parts of all our lives. James Crabtree, who runs the iSociety project, insists that the majority of the population have remained immune to the hype surrounding the digital revolution. "Our use of technology is dominated by everyday concerns -- friends and family, childcare and the shopping. The new economy may have taken a beating recently, but iSociety is clearly alive and well," Crabtree said. PCs drub dishwashers in popularity stakes
The Work Foundation interviewed over 2,000 people while researching RealityIT -- Technology and Everyday Life, and uncovered some interesting statistics about the take-up of IT products. With 52 percent of all UK adults owning a PC, a British home is now twice as likely to contain a personal computer as it is to contain a dishwasher. Ownership is highest in the 34 to 44 age group, where 70 percent own a PC. Encouragingly for the government, which hopes to switch off the analogue broadcasting signal by 2010, 41 percent of those interviewed by the iSociety team live in a home containing a digital TV. Other findings are less than surprising. According to the Work Foundation, "texting is a young activity" -- while over 90 percent of 16 to 24 year olds have sent a text message, fewer than one in ten over 65s have done so. In total, 74 percent of UK adults own a mobile phone, and near-universal coverage -- 95 percent -- has been achieved in the 16 to 24 age range.

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