The Information Dividend: Why IT Makes You ‘Happier’

A global study from BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, shows that access to information technology has a ‘statistically significant, positive impact on life satisfaction’.

Additionally, the report showed women, those on low incomes or with few educational qualifications benefit most from access to IT. Not only do women gain more than men from access to, and use of, technology, they also achieve greater increased life satisfaction from using it. For disadvantaged women without access, therefore, the impact of digital exclusion could be the hardest.

Research involved a number of different elements brought together for the first time in this report. The first phase of research involved the analysis of large global social research data sets to establish whether there was a link between IT access and usage and life satisfaction.

This global analysis was followed up by in-depth research into how IT access and usage influences life satisfaction in the UK. The research in the UK included a unique analysis of data from the British Household Panel Survey plus original primary qualitative and quantitative research programmes.

Elizabeth Sparrow, President, BCS The Chartered Institute for IT said: “Too often, conventional wisdom assumes IT has a negative impact on life satisfaction, but the research has found the opposite to be true. IT has a direct positive impact on life satisfaction, even when controlling for income and other factors known to be important in determining well-being.”

I would recommend this report, available from the BCS website.

I have two issues with the report:

  • It does not consider the impact of access to IT by people with disabilities.
  • The report itself is available as a PDF but it not in a properly accessible format.

To respond to my first issue I will quote two phrases from Executive Summary: “The analysis suggests that IT has an enabling and empowering role leading to a greater sense of freedom and control which in turn leads to greater life satisfaction.” and “IT appears to empower the dis-empowered”. Given that people with disabilities tend to be dependant on others, anything that can give them more freedom and control over their own lives is likely to lead greater life satisfaction. So access to IT for people with disabilities is likely to have a major impact on their quality of life. Anything that takes that access away can now be seen as a double whammy.

Let us make everyone happier by giving everyone access to IT.

Peter is Practice Leader (Accessibility & Usability) at Bloor Research. Peter started in IT as a sandwich student in 1966 with IBM and continued to work for them until 2003. In a company then known especially for its hardware Peter saw the importance of software and especially transactional processing. He installed the first IMS online system in the UK as well as early versions of DB2. In 2004 his experience with some disabled friends and a report by the Disabilities Rights Commission prompted him to start research into IT accessibility for the disabled. Recognising the growing importance of this area he set up Bloor's Usability and Accessibility practice.