IT is now part of the fabric of British society and, according to a report by the Industrial Society, we are reconfiguring our social relationships around it.

The Industrial Society claims the three-year research project, though sponsored by Microsoft, is an independent look into how technology has really affected the way we now live.

"To understand the impact of technology we have to get involved in this kind of project," said Neil Holloway, Microsoft's UK operations manager.

In a sort of 'lite' presurvey opinion casting, almost 50 percent of those asked said technology had increased the number of friends they have. Six out of ten people said they could meet and stay in contact with family and friends more easily with the aid of mobile communications.

While 90 percent said technology had increased the opportunities and ease of availability of information, a large proportion (70 percent) felt the internet just made life busier.

"Most people are happy with the development of technology and use it to their benefit," said a spokesperson at AOL. "Those who do not have access to PCs are usually the ones with negative views."

"The impact of information and communications technology over the next 10 to 15 years is the critical social and economic question of our age," said Will Hutton, chief executive of the Industrial Society in a statement on Friday.