Further growth anticipated
A study has found that the UK's internet economy is worth more per person than any other G20 country, putting it ahead of nations such as the US, Canada, Japan, France and Australia.
It also showed that many UK residents love the internet even more than alcohol, chocolate or coffee.
Research carried out by global management company Boston Consulting Group (BCG) revealed that the internet contributes to 8.3 per cent of the UK economy, making it worth £2,000 per person - a total of £121bn. By 2016 it is projected to be £221bn, having expanded by 11 per cent each year; while in the US and China the rate of growth is expected to be considerably lower, at 5.4 per cent and 6.9 per cent respectively.
Internet business is strong
The new data showed internet retail to be a key area, with 13.5 per cent of all purchases by UK people being carried out online in 2010 - more than any other country in the study. This figure is projected to reach 23 per cent by 2016. The business performance of small and medium-sized companies working in internet industries such as search marketing has also been strong, with revenues having grown by 12.5 per cent each year since 2009.
This means that the internet is now a bigger part of the UK economy than sectors such as healthcare, construction and education.
It is also firmly integrated into UK lifestyles. If asked to choose between giving up the internet or alcohol for a year, 65 per cent of UK residents surveyed said they would opt to keep the former, while 76 per cent would pick it over chocolate and 78 per cent over coffee. Only 25 per cent said they would put it before sex, however.
Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "This survey shows what a big part of life the internet has become for UK people - and, at a time of rapid change in the wider economy, it's great news for those who work in internet businesses."