Azara Blog: British households can allegedly be classified into 23 "e-types"

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Date published: 2006/08/08

The BBC says:

Households in Britain can be classified into 23 "e-types" depending on their access to technology, say researchers.

E-types include mobile explorers, the e-committed and rational utilitarians.

The researchers, from University College London (UCL), say the profiles could be used to inform future policies on access to digital technology.

Every postcode in Britain has been assigned a classification which people can check online to see if they agree with the researcher's analysis.

"What really emerges is that almost all of the types have some interaction with technology," said Professor Paul Longley, who led the study at UCL. "In a sense we are all digital now".

The research, part of the Spatial Literacy initiative between UCL, Leicester and Nottingham Universities, aimed to build a comprehensive picture of access to digital technology in Britain.

The team used information from the electoral roll, the most recent census and data firm Experian to produce maps of Britain showing different levels of access and use of technology.

Each of the 1.7 million unit postcodes in Britain, which on average consists of 17 households, were worked out separately.

Overall they identified eight groups which ranged from the "e-unengaged" to "e-experts".
The research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

It has long been the fantasy of marketing types that people can be classified by their postcode. Unfortunately there are varying household types inside most postcodes, so even the theory is wrong. And even assuming a homogenous postcode, any data "from the electoral roll, the most recent census and data firm Experian" is not obviously going to give you correct information about any supposed e-type. And the categories are simplistic (and will be obsolete in a few years), and most people probably fall into "none of the above".

Of course there are zillions of marketing firms (such as Experian) who will produce plenty of hype about how wonderful and discerning their data is. In practise, the reality is not so good.

For example, take the Cambridge postcode CB4 2HD. The e-type for this is Type A03, "Technology as fantasy", whose blurb says:

This Type contains many old males, some of whom have an interest in electronic technology and like to read about it, but few of whom use it for obtaining information or for on line ordering. This is a Type which has very low take up of cable television. Many transient people fall into this category.

Now let's examine the reality. This postcode is a mixture of youngish Cambridge University academics (all with vast experience of electronic technology) and some typical families, some older couples and some widowed older women. No doubt there is at least one "old male" somewhere in the postcode who falls into Type A03, but with only 23 categories and more than that many people in the postcode, the odds are high that this should happen. But most people in the postcode do not fall into this category. (And this postcode has few "transient people".) And no single category would work for everybody (or even most people) in the postcode. It's a pointless exercise.

Meanwhile across the road in postcode CB4 2HA there is almost exactly the same mix and demographics (surprise), but somehow the geniuses behind the e-type have decided that this postcode is instead the completely different Type D13, "E for entertainment", whose blurb says:

Members of this Type are not currently particularly active users of electronic technologies but are very interested in considering the purchase of new or enhanced products, from the range of mobile and personal computer devices. Many access the Internet using broadband and a high proportion purchase computer games. However this Type is less interested in using the Internet for shopping, seeing it primarily as a leisure and entertainment medium.

Again, no doubt they could find one person amongst the many households in the postcode which somehow falls into this category, but most people in the postcode do not, and again, no single category makes sense for this postcode.

Why is this "research" being funded by public money? It is a complete waste of time.

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