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Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 13:19 GMT
UK internet access rises
computer graphic
More people than ever can access the internet at home
Internet access is increasing sharply in the UK, with nearly half of the population having access to the web either at home or work.

The fastest growth is in home use, with nearly three times as many households having internet access now compared with two years ago.

But poor households are far less likely to have internet access, which is also more concentrated in Southeast England.

There are nearly 8m households in the UK with internet access at home, according to new government figures which cover the period between July and September.

Click here to see internet use by region

That amounts to 32% of all households, while in total (including those who can access the internet from work) 45% of adults have internet access.

Internet usage in the UK is still behind that in Scandinavia and the United States, where over half the population is online, but it is now ahead of major European countries like Germany, France and Italy.

Places used to access the net
Own home (72%)
Workplace (38%)
Another person's home (34%)
Student institution (24%)
Cybercafe (9%)
Public library (7%)
The survey by National Statistics also found that nearly half of all adults have gone online at some time; 80% of these individuals within the last month.

But, despite the prevalence of new technologies for accessing the net such as Wap (Wireless Application Protocol) phones and digital TV, only a small percentage of people chose to use these forms.

Internet usage in the UK is still concentrated in London and the Southeast, with other areas lagging behind.

The parts of the UK with the lowest levels of internet access were Northern Ireland (16%); Scotland (19%) and Wales (20%).

Proportions were highest in London (34%) and the Southeast (30%). The wealthier a household, the more likely it was to have access to the net.

Homes headed by a professional were also more likely to be online than those led by unskilled or partly skilled workers. Men were bigger internet surfers than women - more than half of men had used the net, compared with 39% of women.

The proportion of adults who used the internet decreased with age, and varied from 82% of those aged 16-24 years to 4% of those aged 75 and over.

The complete picture?

Despite a prediction by Mori that 23m Britons would be online within six months, other recent findings have pointed to a disillusionment with the internet.

Reports from the United States have said that nearly 28m people have stopped using the net. And research in the UK has shown that fewer teenagers are logging on now than previously.

"We are often presented with a picture of burgeoning internet use, but there is evidence already of drop-off and saturation among users," said Steve Woolgar, director of Virtual Society which commissioned the study for the Economic and Social Research Council.

The group also found that e-mail was simply adding to the communications overload, rather than taking the place of traditional forms of communication.

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See also:

19 Dec 00 | UK
Bridging the digital divide
06 Nov 00 | Business
Oftel move heralds cut-price surfing
26 Sep 00 | Business
Surfers shun Wap phones
11 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Blair unveils internet plans
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