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The Internet's Positive Effect on Civil Society


5 May 2011 at 3:25 pm
Staff Reporter
The latest ANUpoll shows that far from increasing social isolation because users are in front of a computer screen, the Internet is actually having a positive effect on civil society.

Staff Reporter | 5 May 2011 at 3:25 pm


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The Internet's Positive Effect on Civil Society
5 May 2011 at 3:25 pm

The latest ANUpoll shows that far from increasing social isolation because users are in front of a computer screen, the Internet is actually having a positive effect on civil society.

In the lead up to the roll out of the National Broadband Network, the report takes a snapshot of Internet usage in Australia including how many households have Internet access, how often people use the Internet and what they use it for.

The Australian National University report is called Public opinion on Internet use and civil society by Dr Juliet Pietsch and Professor Ian McAllister.

Some of the findings from ANUpoll include:

  • Frequent Internet use is helping people with social interaction. For example, 54 per cent of respondents said that the Internet helped them interact with people from other countries.
  • Increased Internet usage is not leading to a more individualistic society. For example, 70 per cent of those who use the Internet more than once a day felt that to be a good citizen it was very important to support people who are worse off than themselves.
  • Around one third of respondents say that the Internet has helped them interact with people of a different race from their own, and half of respondents say the Internet has helped them interact with people from other countries.
  • Around one in four respondents said they have visited the websites of political organisations or candidates, and one in five said they had forwarded electronic messages with political content.
  • A total of 82 per cent of respondents have broadband access, and two-thirds say they use the Internet at least once a day. 

The Vice-Chancellor of The Australian National University, Professor Ian Young says the results from ANUpoll are largely positive and counter the pessimistic view that the Internet is undermining effective social relations and good citizenship

Prof Young says frequent Internet users are not more socially disengaged than their counterparts who rely on personal interaction. They are at least as good citizens, and report similar or higher levels of social capital.

He says understanding how the Internet is changing society is a key challenge for social science in the twenty-first century. 

Australia has one of the highest levels of Internet usage in the world and is at the forefront of this challenge.

Prof Young says the ANUpoll provides benchmark results for understanding the long-term implications of these changes.

The ANUpoll is a survey of Australian public opinion looking at issues of national importance, run three times a year. It differs from other opinion polls by benchmarking Australia against international opinion.

Download the report at http://lyceum.anu.edu.au/wp-content/blogs/3/uploads/ANUpoll%20report.pdf



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