Conflicting Data or the Data Divide?

This week there have been two reports released. One from Ofcom (independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries), which has reported that the UK’s mobile users are consuming more data on their phones and tablets than any other leading nation for the first time. A second from the Office for National Statistics has reported that 7.63 million adults in the UK have never used the internet, which is 15% of the population. They have coined a moniker for these people – “The Internots.”

So are the reports wrong? Or is there something else happening?

Let’s explore the reports in a little more detail.

Ofcom’s report, which you can download here, shows that the UK has one of the highest levels of penetration of smartphones in the world at 58%of the population, while just fewer than one in five owns a tablet computer. As a result, British consumers are downloading the most data on mobiles and tablets. In December 2011, the average UK mobile connection used 424 megabytes of data, higher than any other leading country, pushing Japan into second place at 392 megabytes and the US into sixth at 319 megabytes.

One-sixth of all website traffic in the UK was on a mobile, tablet or other connected device, higher than any other country in Europe. James Thickett, Ofcom’s director of research, said: “Our research shows that UK consumers continue to benefit from one of the most advanced markets for communications products and services.”

Overall, the average UK viewer watches more than four hours of television every day, with only the USA, at 293 minutes, and Italy, 253 minutes, watching more.

While at the other end of the spectrum, there are apparently the 15% of  UK adults who have never used the internet. So who are these technophobes who have never gone online? Roughly half, it seems, are over-75s and/or defined as disabled, and not in a position to use a computer. But that still leaves over 3.5 million. How do they conduct their lives without email and Facebook? But more importantly, how do they manage to get things done with more and more government and commercial services delivered as on-line, self-serve websites?

So is there an issue with the reports from the two organizations? Or maybe this is the consumer equivalent of the Data Divide that exists in the commercial world. The Data Divide came from a research project by Vanson Bourne and was highlighted by Mark Darbyshire, TIBCO’s EMEA CTO in some recent interviews.

The report highlights were covered by in this article, and Mark summarized neatly the challenges for UK businesses:

“It looks increasingly like UK companies are lagging behind their continental counterparts. The ability to alert and then convert a transient opportunity or avert an impending threat will be crucial for long term survival. Those trapped by the data divide will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.”


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VP TIBCO, thinker, speaker, tech evangelist. Ian’s first book “Common Approach, Uncommon Results” explains what really makes a difference when driving business transformation programmes. Since then he has written 6 books. He is currently writing a book which helps companies implement social applications inside their organisations. He is a serial entrepreneur having founded and invested in technology start-ups and he sat on the Microsoft SaaS Partner Advisory Council. He was recently identified as one of the Top 50 Influencers in Case Management, and is a regular conference speaker who entertains and challenges his audiences. He is a competitive dinghy sailor and sailed in the 1984 Olympic squad, and still represents Great Britain at international level. Ian lives in the UK and in a 747.