Half of under 30s say they can’t live without internet

21 Sep 2011

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Internet access is now as important as eating, drinking and breathing, according to a Cisco study, which found one in three college students and young professionals believe they could not live without the internet.

The 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report is based on surveys of college students and professionals 30 years old and younger in 14 countries.

One of every three college students and employees surveyed globally (33pc) believes the internet is a fundamental resource for the human race – as important as air, water, food and shelter. About half (49pc of college students and 47pc of employees) believe it is "pretty close" to that level of importance.

More than half of the respondents (55pc of college students and 62pc of employees) said they could not live without the internet and cite it as an "integral part of their lives."

If forced to make a choice between one or the other, the majority of college students globally – about two of three (64pc) – would choose an internet connection instead of a car.

Internet over love and friendship?

Two of five college students surveyed globally (40pc) said the internet is more important to them than dating, going out with friends, or listening to music.

Whereas previous generations preferred socialising in person, the next generation is indicating a shift toward online interaction. More than one in four college students globally (27pc) said staying updated on Facebook was more important than partying, dating, listening to music, or hanging out with friends.

Two-thirds of students (66pc) and more than half of employees (58pc) cite a mobile device (laptop, smartphone, tablet) as “the most important technology in their lives.”

Smartphones are poised to surpass desktops as the most prevalent tool from a global perspective, as 19pc of college students consider smartphones as their “most important” device used on a daily basis, compared to 20pc for desktops – an indication of the growing trend of smartphone prominence and expected rise in usage by the next generation of college graduates upon entering the workforce.

Offices are unproductive and the media as we once knew it is dying

This finding fans the debate over the necessity of offices compared to the ability to connect to the internet and work anywhere, such as at home or in public settings. In the 2010 edition of the study, three of five employees globally (60pc) said offices are unnecessary for being productive.

The survey indicates that the TV’s prominence is decreasing among college students and young employees in favour of mobile devices like laptops and smartphones. Globally, fewer than one in 10 college students (6pc) and employees (8pc) said the TV is the most important technology device in their daily lives. As TV programming and movies become available on mobile devices, this downward trend is expected to continue.

Only one of 25 college students and employees (4pc) surveyed globally said the newspaper is their most important tool for accessing information.

One of five students (21pc) have not bought a physical book (excluding textbooks required for class) in a bookstore in more than two years – or never at all.

About nine of 10 (91pc) college students and employees (88pc) globally said they have a Facebook account – of those, 81pc of college students and 73pc of employees check their Facebook page at least once a day. One of those three (33pc) said they check at least five times a day.

College students reported constant online interruptions while doing projects or homework, such as instant messaging, social media updates and phone calls. In a given hour, more than four out of five (84pc) college students said they are interrupted at least once. About one in five students (19pc) said they are interrupted six times or more – an average of at least once every 10 minutes. One of 10 (12pc) said they lose count how many times they are interrupted while they are trying to focus on a project.

Boundaries between ‘work’ and ‘personal’ getting thinner

In a sign that the boundary between work and personal lives is becoming thinner, seven of 10 employees “friended” their managers and/or co-workers on Facebook, indicating the dissolution of boundaries separating work and private life. Culturally, the United States featured lower percentages of employees friending managers and co-workers – only about one in four (23pc) – although two of five friended their co-workers (40pc).

Of employees who use Twitter, more than two of every three (68pc) follow the Twitter activity of either their manager or colleagues; 42pc follow both, while one-third (32pc) prefer to keep their personal lives private.

“Without a doubt, our world is changing to be much more internet-focused, and becomes even more so with each new generation,” Marie Hattar, vice-president, Enterprise Marketing, Cisco, explained.

“CIOs need to plan and scale their networks now to address the security and mobility demands that the next-generation workforce will put on their infrastructure, and they need to do this in conjunction with a proper assessment of corporate policies,” Hattar said.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com