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Internet Seen as Positive Influence on Education—But Not Morality—in Poll

By Guest Blogger Jacob Bell

People in emerging and developing nations view the Internet as a good influence on education more than on other aspects of society, according to a Pew Research Center report released last week.

The global report looked at data collected between March and June of 2014. The data was from more than 36,000 face-to-face interviews with adults in 32 non-highly industrialized countries. In the interviews, surveyors asked people about how they used the Internet, their opinion about the Internet's impact on society, and their access to cellphones, smartphones, and computers.

The results showed a median of 64 percent of those surveyed said the Internet had positive effects on education.

The report also found that gathering information was the second most-common Internet activity among Internet users, with a median of 54 percent and 46 percent, respectively, saying they get political news and health information from the Web. Though many Internet users sought online information, just 13 percent—the lowest of any Internet usage category—took an online class.

The majority of people polled said the Internet positively affected other things as well, such as the economy and personal relationships. Its effect on morality, however, was largely seen as negative. In fact, a median of 42 percent said it had a bad influence on morality, compared to 29 percent who said it had a good influence.

The report was able to identify trends in Internet use and access across the countries surveyed. Men, for example, used the Internet to get news and information more than women. Younger adults—those ages 18 to 34—and educated people were also more likely to view the Internet as a positive influence on society as a whole.

In terms of technology, a median of 84 percent of adults surveyed owned a cellphone and an increasing number were gaining access to smartphones. Landline use, in contrast, was almost non-existent in many countries, especially those in Africa and Asia.

While many of these trends pertain to people already using the Internet, the report acknowledges that Internet use and access varies greatly among emerging and developing nations.

A median of 44 percent of those surveyed said they use the Internet at least occasionally, though wealthier nations with higher gross domestic product per capita like Russia and Chile were found to have a greater percentage of people accessing the Internet.

Pew researchers also surveyed people in the United States between March and April 2014 as a means for comparing results from the emerging and developing countries. The United States showed overall higher levels of Internet access, with 87 percent of U.S. adults reporting that they use the Internet.

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