Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Who is online?

Taking a looking at the demographic of nations with higher on line populations.  Seeing who is on line at the level of nations.  Graphs made with gapminder.org graphing software. Not many surprises but still worth reflecting. It seems that people on line are rich, educated, old, single, happy and fat. But there are nations which are educated, single, fat and happy that don't have high on line participation.  But no nations that are rich or old are not highly online.  So its wealth and life expectancy which are the strongest predictors of participation on the Internet. 

Rich. Nations with high Internet users tend to be richer, in fact wealth is the clearest predictor of Internet participation, far more so than social freedoms or democracy.


Educated. Nations with high Internet usage need to have high literacy rates (that is obvious) but literacy does not predict high Internet usage.  That is literacy is required to be a Internet using nation but plenty of nations have high literacy and low Internet usage. 


Old. Very surprising graph, a very strong relationship between life expectancy and rate of Internet usage.  There is no cause here, wealth causes both long life and Internet usage, but we tend to think of the Internet as a domain of the young.  But there is a strong dimension to the Internet also being the tool of nations with lots of old people and ageing populations. 


Single. High Internet users tend to marry later in life.  Probably explains the popularity of on line dating.  It will be interesting to see what happens when women who marry at 20 are using the Internet in large numbers, on line dating might be replaced with child care sites.


Happy. This did surprise us, there is a tendency for nations with high Internet usage to have lower suicide rates.  This probably relates to overall quality of life, the Internet along with wealth, education and late marriage being elements of a happy life.  We tend to think of our modern western life as isolated and  unhappy, and the Internet as a sorry replacement for real social engagement, but the true story may be that the Internet is a part of a very fulfilling lifestyle developed in the west. 


Fat. No surprise here, heavy Internet user nations are heavy nations.  Though we don't see any cause here, the Internet is probably not helping.  Actually this one looks more like education.  Nations with low BMI probably lack enough economics to support the Internet, as the BMI levels increase some nations have higher Internet usage but other do not.  There is a tendency for an increase but nothing like the association between wealth.
Conclusion: not surprisingly Internet users are from richer nations.  They marry later in life and date more when they are young, they live longer, are literate and are more prone than the global average to have issue with weight but less likely to be suicidal and therefore less depressed than most people in the world.  The Internet seems to be a key part of the good things of life.  

The data is pretty clear, people who have the Internet are better off than people who don't have it.  In the first years of the Internet the media was full of stories of the dangers of the Internet, but likely the benefits for people are pretty strong.  

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