September 30, 2003
The most fundamental questions vexing current commercial and public strategists in the information society arena are questions that can only be answered by longitudinal studies that measure the same individuals at different points in time. Whilst cross-sectional surveys tell us about penetration and access, they cannot tell us about the effects that these patterns have on people's lives, nor can they distinguish between gross and net patterns of change. Without longitudinal analysis we simply cannot tell if acquiring internet access leads directly to improvement of life chances, to a reduction in the time spent watching television and/or to an increase in communication with distributed family members. Nor can we tell if the 40% of the EU population who were internet users in 2001 are the same as the 30% who were users in 2000 plus a new 10%, or are actually a completely new group of people due to massive churn rates in internet subscription.