Information Technology can make you 'happier'

12 May 2010

New study from Chartered Institute for IT suggests women and disadvantaged benefit most.

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

‘Put simply, people with IT access are more satisfied with life even when taking account of income,’ said the study’s author, social scientist Michael Willmott.

‘Our analysis suggests that IT has an enabling and empowering role in people’s lives by increasing their sense of freedom and control, which has a positive impact on well-being or happiness,’ he continued.

Women and those on lower incomes or with fewer educational qualifications benefit most from access to and use of IT and appear to benefit more than those on higher incomes or with more qualifications.  

The study also suggests that women in developing nations benefit even more than those in the developed world.

Called ‘The Information Dividend: Can IT make you happier?’ the report is based on an analysis of the World Values Survey, and contains responses from 35,000+ people globally. The findings suggest there may well be an ‘information dividend’ - a personal and social benefit which comes from access to information and IT. 

‘The ‘Information Society’, as we see it, should be a place where information technology is used to improve life satisfaction and support our individual and collective goals, not to erode or undermine them. The IT profession should be here to serve that purpose,’ said Elizabeth Sparrow, President, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

The interest in ‘well being’ or life satisfaction has become a hot topic in recent years as academics, policy makers and politicians have sought ways to define happiness and redefine the role of Government in addressing the fact that ‘happiness’ appears to flat-line once a society reaches a certain economic level.

The implications for this study, therefore, could be far reaching and intriguing:

  • IT as a means to better social policy outcomes
  • Re-emphasises the need for broadband roll-out to close the digital divide
  • A clearer idea of where digital inclusion/exclusion is most beneficial/harmful

‘The relationship between IT and happiness has not been well researched which is why the Institute commissioned this study. If we can enhance the understanding of the relationships in a way that leads to new and improved thinking, strategies or solutions then we will have helped a little,’ concluded Elizabeth Sparrow.

Key findings from the report are available to view at http://www.bcs.org/infodividend

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