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Wired ... but frustrated

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 16, 2008
Need help setting up that home computer or Internet connection? Frustrated by that new cell phone?

You're not alone.

A survey released on Sunday found that nearly half of Americans need help from others booting up their new devices, and an even larger percentage need outside assistance when they encounter technical problems.

"A new gadget or service can become popular well before the technology itself is understood by the average user," said Sydney Jones, co-author of the report by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project.

"Naturally, some users catch on to new technology more quickly than others, and those who have more trouble grasping the technology are left confused, discouraged, and reliant on help from others when their technology fails."

Forty-eight percent of the 2,054 adults surveyed by the Pew Center said they usually need help from others to set up new devices or services such as home computers, cell phones or Internet connections and to show them how they work.

When encountering technical problems, 28 percent said that they fixed the problems themselves, with men (39 percent) more likely than women (22 percent) to go it alone.

But most people need assistance.

Thirty-eight percent said they contacted user support for help, 15 percent said they fixed the problem with help from friends or family and two percent said they found help online.

Fifteen percent just gave up, unable to fix their devices at all.

As to the frequency of the problems, 44 percent of those with home Internet access said their connection failed to work properly at some time in the past year.

Thirty-nine percent of those with desktop or laptop computers said their machines did not work properly at some time in the previous 12 months.

Twenty-nine percent of cell phone users said their device failed at some time in the past year and 15 percent of those with an iPod or MP3 player said their devices did not work properly at some time in the past 12 months.

As for the most recent failure, 46 percent said it was their home Internet connection, 28 percent said it was their computer, 21 percent said it was their cell phone and three percent said it was their iPod or other MP3 player.

Cell phones were the device least likely to be fixed, the survey found, with 23 percent of those with broken cell phones saying they were unable to get them working again.

Nineteen percent of those with broken computers reported not being able to fix them, while just seven percent of those with Internet connection problems said they were unable to reconnect to the Web.

Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said they felt discouraged with the amount of effort needed to fix the problem and 40 percent felt confused by the information that they were getting.

"Struggles with modern gadgetry mean less engagement with the services they enable," said John Horrigan, associate director at the Pew Internet Project and co-author of the report.

"Time spent dealing with set-up or outages means less time using modern communication services to connect with friends or find information that might help people be more productive."

The survey was conducted between October 24 and November 2 with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percent.

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Qualcomm to link people to Internet without computers
San Francisco (AFP) Nov 12, 2008
US wireless technology titan Qualcomm on Wednesday said it is unleashing technology that will let people in poor countries connect to the Internet without personal computers.

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