The Geneva-based Internet Society has published its 2012 Global Internet User survey, “one of the broadest surveys of Internet user attitudes on key issues facing the Internet.”

This year’s survey incorporates responses from more than 10,000 Internet users in 20 countries, revealing their attitudes towards the Internet and users’ online behavior, including how they manage information online, the potential for the Internet to address longstanding and pressing issues such as economic development and education, as well as attitudes regarding the Internet and censorship and the Internet and human rights, a press release explains.

Broken out according to the six broad categories, this year’s key findings include:

General Internet usage:

  • Internet users nearly universally (96 percent) indicated they accessed the Internet at least once a day.
  • More than 90 percent of Internet users surveyed globally indicated they use social media, with a majority (60 percent) using it daily, an increase of 10 percent over 2011.
  • Connection speed (73 percent) and reliability (69 percent) ranked slightly above more affordable monthly fees (68 percent) among factors that would increase usage. Other factors included more content in their local language (50 percent) and more online availability of government and/or community services (49 percent)

Attitudes towards the Internet:

  • Ninety-eight percent of users agreed or strongly agreed the Internet is essential for their access to knowledge and education.
  • More than 80 percent agreed or agreed strongly that the Internet plays a positive role for their individual lives as well as society at large.
  • Nearly 75 percent of users strongly agreed that access to the Internet allows them to seek any information that interests them.

The Internet and economic and societal issues:

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that the Internet would play a significant role in solving global problems, including reducing child mortality (63 percent), improving maternal health (65 percent), eliminating extreme poverty and hunger (61 percent), and preventing the trafficking of women and children (69 percent).
  • An even higher percentage of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that the Internet would increase global trade and economic relationships (81 percent), improve the quality of education (80 percent), and improve emergency response during a natural disaster (77 percent).
  • A majority of respondents felt strongly that the Internet plays a significant role in making improvements to business, science, and technology in areas such as: expanding the availability of goods and services (66 percent), allowing entrepreneurs to conduct business across all countries (65 percent), and advancing science and technology and creating a technologically recognized workforce (61 percent).

Online privacy and identity:

  • Even when users know they are sharing personal data with a site or service, most users (80 percent) do not always read privacy policies and a significant fraction (12 percent) of respondents admitted that they never read privacy policies.
  • Of users who logged into online services, only half reported that they logged out.
  • Nineteen percent of respondents were aware of circumstances in which personal data was used in a way they did not expect. The most commonly reported consequences were: unsolicited communications, stolen personal data, private data becoming public, impersonation, and financial loss.

The Internet Society’s 2012 global survey also covers Internet censorship and the Internet and Human Rights:

Internet censorship:

  • Thirty percent of users agreed strongly that censorship currently exists on the Internet.
  • Sixty-six percent of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that governments in countries with no Internet censorship have a responsibility to keep the Internet free of censorship in countries where the Internet is being censored/controlled/shut down.
  • More than 70 percent of users agreed or agreed strongly that more government involvement would make the Internet too controlled or would limit content they can access.
  • More than two-thirds agreed or agreed strongly that increased government control would inhibit the growth of the Internet and/or stifle innovation.

The Internet and Human Rights:

  • Eighty-three percent of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that access to the Internet should be considered a basic human right.
  • Eighty-nine percent agreed or agreed strongly that Internet access allows freedom of expression on all subjects, and 86 percent agreed or agreed strongly that freedom of expression should be guaranteed.
  • Sixty percent of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that Internet access has contributed significantly to civil action and political awareness in their country.

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