Digital Divide Could Worsen in Britain

One-third of the British public has never been on the Internet, and many could get left behind as everyone else gets more tech-savvy

The digital divide in Blighty could be set to deepen further as offline individuals are left behind their more tech-savvy neighbours.

John Fisher, chief executive of the digital inclusion charity Citizens Online told "One-third - 16 million - of individuals in the UK have not been online and they don't understand how to do it."

Fisher added there's a danger the digital divide will deepen as there are large numbers of people still struggling with technology that must not be left behind as everyone else gets more tech-savvy.

Technology trends for the US are generally two years ahead of the UK, making it a good indicator of what will happen here, according to Ellen Helsper, a survey research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute who was speaking at a BT-sponsored round-table event.

In the US the number of web users has reached a plateau at a much lower level than expected - with one-third of the US population still to go online, she said.

This implies a substantial number of people in the UK are not going to embrace the internet either, Helsper added.

And even some of those who have got themselves online are still nervous about it. Nearly a quarter of people are worried information on their computer could fall into the wrong hands, according to a survey by BT.

But it's not all doom and gloom - many of those with computers seem to be embracing technology.

More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of families said they love the impact of technology on their lives and more than half of parents (57 per cent) surveyed believe the internet has helped their children's school grades, according to BT's research, which interviewed 1,021 parents across the UK.