I don't feel 50

Raceonline ONS figures are a con!

What prompts my rant?

In August the Office of National Statistics published their Internet Access 2010 Statistical Bulletin covering household and individuals (adults) internet use in the UK over the previous 12 months. Keypoint from the 2010 bulletin and the bold headline in the Raceonline/ONS press release:
'1Million Internet first-timers get online'

From that statement I took it that 1 million adults that had never used the internet before, went online for the first time in the previous 12 months, the period covered by the annual bulletin. But that’s not quite so, it’s not a like for like comparison they are skewed statistics.


Going back many years to my school days, my maths teacher always wanted to see my workings out, how I arrived at the answer was as important as the actual answer in fact he sometimes gave a few marks for the workings out even if the final answer was wrong.


The problem is what numbers don’t tell you and it’s what the ONS didn’t tell us regarding , ‘1 million Internet first-timers get online', even in their ‘Background Notes’.


From the latest ONS population bulletin Mid year population figures 2009 I found that over the 12 months, 750,000 children became adults, - went from 15 years of age to 16 and were included in the Internet Access Statistical Bulletin for the first time. The Bulletin also tells us that only 1% of 16 year olds hadn't used the internet, compared to 60% over the age over 65.


Furthermore in the ONS Mid year population deaths by age 2009 - 449,000 people over the age of 55 died in the period. From the population by death figures over 55 and the Internet access rates for the elderly age groups, I worked out that 290,000 who had died in the period had never used the internet .


Finally after 3 months of pestering I received the following reply from the ONS:



Thank you for your interest in our Internet Access survey results.

It is likely that some of the growth in access to the Internet could be accounted by the population of people who first accessed the Internet when they were younger, who are now becoming older.


However, we do not carry out any kind of age adjustment to our results. We report on the situation as it is for a given year, regardless of how the profile of the population has changed since the previous year.

E-commerce and Internet Access Survey Manager
Office for National Statistics
Government Buildings
South Wales

November 2010