Global Personal Tech Usage Rises

December 21, 2010

pew-cell-phones-dec-2010.JPGGlobal rates of using personal technologies such as cell phones, PCs, the internet and email are rising, according to a new study from the Pew Global Attitudes Project. For example, looking across the 16 countries for which trends are available, the median percentage of people who own a cell phone has increased by 80% since 2002. The current median is 81%, compared with 45% earlier in the decade. In 2007, the median percentage owning cell phones across these 16 countries was 70%, or 14% growth in three years.

Computer Use Increases More Slowly

Computer usage has also increased considerably, although at a slower pace than cell phone ownership. Currently, across the 16 countries where trends are available, the median percentage of computer users is 50%. This represents a 28% jump from a median of 39% in 2007 56% increase from a 32% median in 2002.

Internet, Email Usage Also Up

pew-internet-email-use-dec-2010.JPGAs people have gained more access to computers and cell phones, internet and email usage have also increased. A median of 45% across the 18 countries for which 2007 trends are available now say they use the internet at least occasionally; three years ago, when the Pew Global Attitudes Project first asked this question, a median of 35% said that was the case. This means the median has risen 28.5% in three years.

The median percentage that sends or receives email at least occasionally has also risen, although not as steeply, from 29% in 2007 to 34% in 2010 (a still solid 17% hike).

Young, Educated More Connected

pew-cell-phone-young-dec-2010.JPGAcross the world, the adoption of these technologies is consistently more common among the young and the well-educated.Specifically, people younger than age 30 and those with a college education are especially likely to say they use the internet and own a cell phone.
Significant differences across age and educational groups also characterize computer and email usage.

For example, while nine-in-ten Poles ages 18 to 29 utilize the internet at least occasionally, only a quarter of those ages 50 and older say the same. In China, more than eight-in-ten (83%) of those ages 18 to 29 say they use the internet, compared with only 16% of those ages 50 and older.

The same pattern holds for cell phone ownership. For instance, nearly all Poles younger than age 50 own a cell phone (96% of those ages 18 to 29 and 94% of those ages 30 to 49), but only a slim majority (53%) of those ages 50 and older say they have a mobile phone.

Similar gaps of more than 30 percentage points between the young and old appear in Lebanon, Mexico, Brazil, India and Indonesia. Age gaps in internet usage and cell phone ownership exist in nearly all of the 22 countries polled, regardless of a country’s level of economic development or technological advancement.

Youth Also Lead SocNet Usage

Other Pew data from this study indicates that in every nation surveyed, there is also a notable age gap relating to social networking. Social networking is especially popular among people younger than age 30; in 12 of the countries polled, a majority of this age group uses these types of sites. There are only three countries, Britain, Poland and the US, in which most 30 to 49 year-olds are involved in social networking. And there is no country in which even one-quarter of those ages 50 and older are involved.

In 10 countries, a gap of at least 50 percentage points separates the percentage of 18-to-29-year-olds who use social networking sites and the percentage of those ages 50 and older who do so. This includes the US, where the gap is 54 percentage points (77% of 18-to-29-year-olds and 23% of those 50 and older).

The age gap is largest in Germany, where 86% of people younger than age 30 take part in social networking, compared with 36% of 30 to 49 year-olds and just 8% of those ages 50 and older (78 percentage point difference).

While it is true that the young are more likely to go online, these age gaps are not driven solely by internet usage. Even among internet users, young people are more likely to participate in social networking.

About the Data: The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project conducted surveys of adults in 22 countries about their internet and technology use with a variety of methods from April 7 to May 8, 2010.

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