Increased internet usage in Australia has put it on track to become a more socially interactive and politically engaged nation, according to a recent poll by the Australian National University.
The poll, titled The Internet and Civil Society, interviewed 1200 people and examined the use of broadband in the lead-up to the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN), indicating how many Australians have internet access, how often the internet is used and the purpose it is used for. It asks the question of whether virtual contacts made or maintained via the internet are less important than personal contacts and what effect this has on society.
The findings show that contrary to the popular belief that the internet is eroding social relations and community engagement, the internet is not actively isolating individuals but instead, has a positive affect.
“The ANUpoll shows that just 12 per cent of the respondents who were interviewed said that their household did not have internet access," the findings read.
"Of those with internet access, 82 per cent say they have broadband access and only two per cent say that they still have dial-up."
The poll noted the role broadband has played in fostering social interaction. 54 per cent of those surveyed said that the internet helped them interact with people from all over the globe.
“The results from the ANUpoll show that the internet helps people to not only participate in social groups that they already belong to, but also to interact with people from different ages, race and national backgrounds," the findings read
"The internet is therefore a medium that is conducive to building bonding and bridging forms of social capital.”
35 per cent of respondents said the internet had helped them interact with people of a different race, while 54 per cent said the platform has assisted in engaging with people countries other than Australia.
It also found that high usage does not result in isolation of individuals, with those who are frequent internet users are just as likely as infrequent internet users to understand the importance of helping others worse off.
According to the poll, 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.
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