Technology

Seven million Brits have 'never used the internet'

An old lady's hands on a computer keyboard
Image caption The elderly remain the least connected group in the UK, but more are getting online

More than seven million adults in the UK have never used the internet, figures suggest.

Research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said 43.5 million adults were now online - one million more than in the same period last year.

But 7.1 million remain offline, with the elderly and disabled still the least likely to be connected.

One digital accessibility charity said the numbers were "encouraging" but more work was needed.

"It's not just about access to the internet," said Graham Walker, chief executive of Go On UK.

"Sixteen million adults don't have the basic online skills to confidently take advantage of digital tools."

The data was based on responses to the question: "when did you last use the internet?"

The statistics indicate London has highest rate of internet users (90%), while Northern Ireland has the lowest (79%).

Considerably more women (4.2 million) than men (2.8 million) have never used the internet.

When broken down by age, the figures suggest almost all - 99% - of 16-24-year-olds use the internet.

Disconnected elderly

At the opposite end of the spectrum, those aged 75 or above are still the most disconnected.

But there were promising signs for those looking to increase engagement among the elderly. In 2011, 23.8% of over-75s had accessed the internet, compared with 34.3% now - a increase of 1.6 million people.

However, the ONS urged caution over figures relating to the elderly due to smaller sample sizes.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK, welcomed the "fantastic" news.

"The internet offers huge benefits to people in later life so it is an extremely positive step in ensuring more people can profit from being online," she said.

"However, the key is not just getting people online for the first time but giving them the skills and knowledge to become confident using the internet.

"With more services heading online, with the aim of potentially saving the government millions, the government must invest in greater training to open up the web to all."

As in previous years, disability and low income still remain serious barriers to getting online.

Disabled people were three times less likely to get online than people without disability, the ONS said, with 3.7 million disabled adults not connected.

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