ISOC – Insights from Internet Society’s 2020 Public Pulse Survey

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how critical the Internet is to daily life – a point further emphasized in a recent public pulse survey from the Internet Society, a global non-profit promoting the development and use of an open, globally connected, secure, and trustworthy Internet.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents indicated that the Internet has become much more important in their lives as a result of the pandemic. Accessibility and reliability were listed as the most important aspects of the Internet. However, the majority of respondents were unaware of the extent of the digital divide – only one in four knew that almost half the world population lacks access to the Internet.

The independent public pulse survey commissioned by the Internet Society was conducted online among 2,000 respondents age 18+ in the United States and the United Kingdom – two of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 – to gauge consumers’ use of the Internet and their shifting perceptions of the Internet during the pandemic.

Results

Respondents in the U.S. and U.K. agree, as a result of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, the Internet is more important. About half say the Internet is ‘a lot’ more important in both countries.

Most respondents in the U.S. and U.K. say they are using the Internet more often to check websites for news, make online purchases, communicate with others, and watch TV or movies.

Change in Internet Usage U.S.
Increased a lot Increased somewhat A lot + Somewhat
Checking websites for news and information 33% 33% 66%
Making purchases online 31% 33% 64%
Communicating with friends & family 29% 34% 63%
Watching TV shows and movies online 35% 27% 62%
Checking websites for health information or telemedicine 21% 30% 51%
Using education and training websites 22% 19% 41%
Working from home 26% 13% 39%
Change in Internet Usage U.K.
Increased
a lot
Increased somewhat A lot + Somewhat
Checking websites for news and information 31% 37% 68%
Making purchases online 22% 34% 56%
Communicating with friends & family 31% 34% 65%
Watching TV shows and movies online 29% 27% 56%
Checking websites for health information or telemedicine 16% 31% 47%
Using education and training websites 16% 20% 36%
Working from home 25% 14% 39%

Sub-group data provides more context.

Access and reliability are increasingly important as a result of COVID-19. Over a third say the importance of access and reliability has increased ‘a lot.’

Change in Important Aspects of the Internet U.S.
Increased a lot in importance Increased somewhat in importance Increased
A lot + Somewhat in importance
Access 42% 26% 68%
Reliability 42% 25% 67%
Security 35% 22% 57%
Bandwidth 30% 26% 56%
Affordability 32% 24% 56%
Change in Important Aspects of the Internet U.K.
Increased a lot in importance Increased somewhat in importance Increased
A lot + Somewhat in importance
Access 38% 28% 66%
Reliability 37% 28% 65%
Security 30% 24% 54%
Bandwidth 24% 23% 47%
Affordability 26% 25% 51%

Those aged 18-34 in the U.S. and the U.K. are more likely to say bandwidth and affordability have increased in importance. In the U.K., this same age group is also more likely to say access has increased ‘a lot’ or ‘somewhat’ in importance.

Change in Important Aspects of the Internet U.S. – by age
% Increased a lot in importance + Increased somewhat in importance
All respondents

(n=1,040)

18-34

(n=309)

35-54

(n=362)

55+

(n=368)

Access 68% 70% 72% 59%
Reliability 67% 71% 69% 60%
Security 57% 57% 61% 50%
Bandwidth 56% 63% 61% 39%
Affordability 56% 63% 58% 43%
Change in Important Aspects of the Internet U.K. – by age
% Increased a lot in importance + Increased somewhat in importance
All respondents

(n=1,100)

18-34

(n=340)

35-54

(n=385)

55+

(n=375)

Access 66% 81% 71% 51%
Reliability 65% 73% 70% 53%
Security 54% 62% 59% 42%
Bandwidth 47% 57% 57% 29%
Affordability 51% 61% 58% 36%

When asked to rank the most important aspects of the Internet, well over half in the U.S. and U.K. ranked reliability as either the first or second most important. Access followed as a close second to reliability with just under half ranking it as either first or second most important.

As the first wave of COVID-19 spread around the world, more than a billion children worldwide were sent home from school in a matter of weeks[1], ostensibly to continue classes online. Yet schools struggled during those first weeks of the pandemic as they confronted the realities of disparate access to technology and connectivity for their students.

However, a majority of respondents in the U.S. and U.K. do not realize what percentage of the world population does not have access to the Internet – only about one in four are aware that less than 50 percent of the world does not have access.

Three-fourths of respondents in the U.S. and the U.K. say the Internet is critical in keeping them connected and that COVID-19 has made access to the Internet critical to their everyday lives. Interestingly, only around a third of respondents say lack of access to the Internet is a serious issue in their community.

Agreement with Statements U.S.
Strongly agree Somewhat agree Strongly + somewhat agree
The Internet is critical in keeping me connected to friends and loved ones 45% 30% 75%
The COVID-19 pandemic has made access to the Internet more critical to my everyday life than ever before 46% 28% 74%
I would not be able to do my job if I had no access to the Internet at home 37% 17% 54%
My children would not be able to continue their education if we did not have access to the Internet at home 36% 20% 56%
Lack of Internet access is a serious issue in my community 20% 19% 39%
Agreement with Statements U.K.
Strongly agree Somewhat agree Strongly + somewhat agree
The Internet is critical in keeping me connected to friends and loved ones 43% 34% 77%
The COVID-19 pandemic has made access to the Internet more critical to my everyday life than ever before 39% 36% 75%
I would not be able to do my job if I had no access to the Internet at home 29% 18% 47%
My children would not be able to continue their education if we did not have access to the Internet at home 24% 19% 43%
Lack of Internet access is a serious issue in my community 17% 17% 34%

There is agreement that the onus is on Internet service providers for managing secure and reliable access to the Internet. About half say they are ‘extremely responsible’. Fewer believe non-profits have a major responsibility in managing secure and reliable access to the Internet.

Responsibility for secure and reliable Internet Access U.S.
Extremely responsible Very responsible Somewhat responsible
Internet Service Providers (e.g., Verizon, Virgin Media, AT&T) 47% 27% 13%
Tech companies (e.g., Google, Apple, Microsoft) 41% 31% 15%
Government entities (e.g., U.S., U.K., Korea) 34% 23% 21%
Non-profits with no ties to government, private or public companies 18% 23% 24%
Responsibility for secure and reliable Internet Access U.K.
Extremely responsible Very responsible Somewhat responsible
Internet Service Providers (e.g., Verizon, Virgin Media, AT&T) 47% 29% 15%
Tech companies (e.g., Google, Apple, Microsoft) 40% 31% 18%
Government entities (e.g., U.S., U.K., Korea) 34% 30% 21%
Non-profits with no ties to government, private or public companies 16% 23% 28%

An overwhelming majority agree the Internet should remain open and not managed by a single entity. Well over half ‘strongly agree’ with this. Overall, there is no statistical difference between age groups – although those in the U.K. that are 55 + are more likely to ‘strongly agree’.

Level of Agreement U.S. – by age
All respondents (n=1,040) 18-34

(n=309)

35-54

(n=362)

55+

(n=368)

Strongly agree 60% 58% 61% 61%
Somewhat agree 24% 26% 24% 22%
Total Agree: Strongly + Somewhat agree 84% 83% 85% 83%
Level of Agreement U.K. – by age
All respondents (n=1,100) 18-34

(n=340)

35-54

(n=385)

55+

(n=375)

Strongly agree 57% 48% 52% 70%
Somewhat agree 27% 32% 30% 20%
Total Agree: Strongly + Somewhat agree 83% 79% 81% 89%

When asked to choose which of five technologies respondents would be least likely to give up, the top item in the U.K. was the Internet (36%), followed by mobile phones (22%). Among U.S. respondents, the Internet (28%) and the mobile phone (26%) were a virtual tie.

Original Source : https://www.internetsociety.org/resources/doc/2020/insights-from-2020-public-pulse-survey/