Editor’s note: The "Innovation Exchange," a regular feature in Local Tech Wire, is written by Noah Garrett, former director of communications for the North Carolina Technology Association, is a creative spirit, from writing music to news stories, who owns and operates NGC Communications. The focus of the Innovation Exchange is just that – creating a Web community through which people can exchange ideas and foster creativity.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – We all need the Internet. Without it you wouldn’t be here, now would you? But, would you be more willing to give up Web access or sex for the next two weeks?

According to the results of “Internet Reliance in Today’s Economy,” a survey conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored by Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), most U.S. adults find Internet access essential to daily life, with some choosing it as a must-have over watching TV and having sex.

The survey revealed that 65 percent of adults feel they cannot live without Internet access, and even more – 71 percent – responded that it is important or very important to have Internet-enabled devices.

According to the survey, nearly half of women (46 percent) and 30 percent of men would rather go without sex for two weeks than give up Internet access for the same amount of time. For women aged 18-34 it was 49 percent, and for women 35-44 it was 52 percent. For men aged 18-34, it was 39 percent.

Ninety-five percent of adults feel that it is very important, important or somewhat important for people to have devices that allow them to access the Internet. A majority (82 percent) agree that Internet-enabled devices help them stay up to date real-time on the state of the economy. Eighty-seven percent say that Internet access has helped them save money.

These figures were just small tidbits from the broader commissioned study on Americans’ reliance on the Internet. Although not quite as sexy but certainly relevant, the survey also found that 87 percent of respondents said the Internet saves them money.

Eighty-four percent have saved money by comparing prices online and finding the best deals before making purchase decisions. Sixty-six percent have saved money simply by shopping online. Sixty-five percent say the Internet has helped them save money by allowing them to search for coupons, discounts or special Internet promotions.

When asked to rate certain discretionary items on a scale of 1 (completely expendable) to 5 (cannot live without it), the survey’s results ranks Internet access highest among the items, with 65 percent of U.S. adults reporting they cannot live without it.

The following items and activities were ranked below Internet access in importance:

• Cable television subscriptions (39 percent)
• Dining out (20 percent)
• Shopping for clothes (18 percent)
• Gym membership (10 percent)

This confirms what I already believed to be true – that the Internet is essential, maybe even indispensible, especially during the current economic situation we’re facing.

What surprised me here, though, was just how essential the Internet has become.

Just like it’s hard for so many of us to imagine life without the laptop, cell phone or even TV, it’s become next to impossible to imagine my own life without the Internet. It’s how I work and how I stay in touch with my family and friends.

I would be interested to know what you think about this survey. Let us know.

Survey Information

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Intel from Nov. 18-20 among 2,119 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Contact Noah via e-mail at: noah@thinkngc.com