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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 October 2006, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Digital divide could be deepening
Man using keyboard
Many just don't see relevance of net to their lives
The number of people in the UK who have no intention of getting internet access has risen, research firm Point Topic has found.

Net refuseniks account for 44 percent - or 11.2 million - of UK households, according to Point Topic.

Of those, more than 70 percent say they have little or no intention of getting connected, the research found.

This has risen from just over 50 percent in mid 2005 with lack of skills cited as one reason for no access.

Rising numbers of people are getting broadband and availability of high speed net is almost universal but there is still a significant number that refuse to step on even the first rung of the internet ladder.

Digital divide

"As the number of non-access households shrinks, those that are left are increasingly resistant to its appeal. This could prove a high barrier to achieving much higher levels of internet access," said Katja Mueller, chief analyst for Point Topic.

16-24 year-olds - 85%
25-44 year-olds - 79%
45-54 year-olds - 68%
55-64 year-olds - 68%
65-74 - 55%
Statistics from Office for National Statistics

The reasons cited for not getting internet access fall into three broad groups - lack of need or interest; cost or other material constraints; and lack of the necessary skills.

Only 26 percent of people from non-access households believed that they had a good understanding of how to use the internet.

Lack of skills needs to be addressed if more people are to cross the digital divide, said Ms Mueller.

Silver surfers

But even then, there will still be a chunk of people who are unpersuaded by the benefits of being online.

When asked whether they would consider getting net access if the obstacles were removed, 42.8 percent of respondents to PointTopic's survey declined to answer. Only 16 percent said that it would make them more likely to get access.

Citizens Online, a charity set up to look at the issues surrounding digital inclusion, believes the way to break down barriers is to show people the relevance of the net.

"The cost of getting online has gone down and the geographical element has receded but we are finding that people just don't see the relevance to their lives," said communication manager Emily Turberville-Tully.

The charity works in partnership with local organisations to offer taster sessions to introduce people to the benefits of being online.

"We've found that groups that you might think the net wouldn't be relevant for - older people for example - are really running with it," said Ms Turberville-Tully.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that people over 65 are the least likely to have used the internet.

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