White families are more likely to own a computer
Black people living in deprived areas have less access to home computers than their white neighbours, a study suggests.
However, ethnic minority families with a PC were more likely to use it for work and education, according to research carried out at the universities of Warwick and Leeds.
White households, though, were more likely than others to surf the internet.
Ethnic minorities, as a result, had less access to government online services and home shopping, the survey found.
'Conquer the differences'
Warwick University researcher Dr David Owen said: "Some people are being left behind, with our increasing reliance on information technology.
"We need further research into this, so we can conquer what has become known as the digital divide."
The survey, of 1,585 households in deprived areas, found that 37% of white families owned computers, compared with 31% of black families.
The figure among Asian families was 42%, but this group was less likely than others to use the internet.
The overall proportion of UK families owning a computer was 50% in 2001, according to government figures.
The report, commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills, comes as the government is encouraging more people to learn how to use computers.
Dr Owen said: "Awareness of computers is important for people's future employment.
"The government is hoping to give people in deprived areas a better chance of learning these skills."
The survey also found that black families who owned computers often had older, cheaper models because of their lower income.
Ethnic minority groups were much less likely than white people to use them to buy goods or services - 25% compared with 42%.
Meanwhile, only 20% of Asian people and 26% black people questioned had used computers to access government services on line. The figure for white respondents was 34%.
People in deprived areas of London, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford, Cardiff and Glasgow were interviewed for the survey.