Ofcom – Annual Communications Market Review 2008

Ofcom’s fourth annual review on Northern Ireland’s communications market was released last week.

Introduction: Communications Market Report: Northern Ireland

Report: The Communications Market 2009: Nations & Regions – Northern Ireland (pdf)

Here are some highlights from the report:

“A third of households in Northern Ireland have watched TV or video online…”

This includes catchup TV services such as BBC iPlayer and uplayer (utv),  user generated content on video sharing sites such as YouTube and video embedded in social networking sites.

“Radio listening through mobile phone, and MP3 ownership highest in N Ireland”

15% have said they have listened to radio through their mobile and 46% own a mp3 player/ipod.

“One in four households in Northern Ireland use social networking sites”

These are websites such as facebook, myspace and bebo which enable users to upload content and communicate with friends.

“…people in Northern Ireland spent 11% less time watching television than people in the rest of the UK”

This seems to match a wider trend where people are spending less time watching television and more on other devices including accessing the internet.

“Mobile take-up in Northern Ireland was the highest in the UK at 93% in Quarter 1 2009, up eight percentage points year-on-year”

Mobiles are now becoming the primary means of communications for many people (BBC News Article)

Other points:

1. A Media Literacy Network was established for Northern Ireland in February 2009.  Its purpose is to:

“… provide a forum for the sharing of expertise, information and best practice on the development of media literacy … [and to] … act as a vehicle for the development of strategic thinking and co-ordinated activity with a view to achieving greater media literacy in Northern Ireland.”

The network steering partnership includes Ofcom, BBC NI, Northern Ireland Screen, EGSA and Department of Finance and Personnel NI.  Membership is open to others who have similar interests.

2. New online learning portal launched for Northern Ireland, mylearningni, during Adult Learners’ Week

“The facility is designed to help adults access information and support about learning and careers choices, learn more about media literacy and share and communicate ideas with other users online.”

The mylearningni portal is being developed by Educational Guidance Service for Adults (EGSA), in partnership with the Department of Finance & Personnel, Ufi Learndirect and MMC Consulting.  It will go live to the general public later this year.

3. Ofcom NI have supported a pilot project that allows volunteers from Business in the Community to help residents of the Cedar Foundation to obtain internet and digital literacy skills.

“Business volunteers were recruited and trained to deliver one-to-one sessions. A special training manual was developed to take the participants and volunteers through the basics of using computers to accessing the internet and sending emails.”

The Communications Market report for Northern Ireland is 123 pages and can be downloaded as a pdf from the Ofcom website.

The conscientious objectors

When we think of people’s media literacy and use of the internet , we think of those who are digitally included and excluded.  However, it appears the latter group can be divided into those who are willing but face barriers to digital inclusion such as cost, training etc and those who have no interest at all in the digital revolution.

The BBC News Magazine has an interesting article discussing this issue titled The internet’s conscientious objectors.

It’s estimated that as many as 17 million people in Britain aged over 15 are not using the internet.

Ellen Helsper, researcher from the Oxford Internet Institute, believes there is a rise in the number of people saying they are just not interested in being online; reasons include:

  • the impersonal nature of communication
  • the many privacy concerns
  • the desire to keep life simple

The article points out that if this situation persists it will create challenges for the government as it continues to drive services online.  This will be something the government’s new digital inclusion champion, Martha Lane Fox, will have to consider for the future.  She is quoted as saying:

I don’t think you can be a proper citizen of our society in the future if you are not engaged online

Public want services online

A recent report states that the public want public serivces online in five years.

Most are fed up having to queue, make trips or wait for hours on the phone with 84% saying it would save them time and 60% believing that they would have easier access to essential services if they were moved online.

Surprising 43% had not heard about the Digital Britain report.  The expectation is this will lead to more efficient access to these services.

Full story can be found on the Guardian Public website.