More older people have used the internet than have not according to new ONS statistics

Over 7 million UK adults have never used the web

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

The data revealed about one million more people have ventured on to the web since this time last year, but the latest statistics show 14 per cent of those over the age of 16 have never accessed material online.

Significantly more women than men have never used the internet (4.2 million compared with 2.8 million), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, and it found 326,000 adults used the internet for the first time between January and March this year.

The ONS said: "Internet use is linked to various socio-economic and demographic characteristics, such as age, sex, disability, geographical location and weekly earnings. For example, those who are less likely to have used the internet include elderly and disabled adults."

A breakdown of the population by age showed almost all of those between 16 and 24 (99 per cent) have used the web, while those least likely to have connected were 75 or over.

However, it did note that there was a marked increase in internet users among people of this age in the past two years.

At the beginning of 2011, estimates suggested 23.8 per cent of this demographic had accessed the internet, compared with 34.3 per cent this year (1.6 million people).

The 3.1 million non-users aged 75 or over make up 43 per cent of the 7.1 million who have never connected, the ONS said, but it warned estimates relating to elderly people should be treated with a degree of caution because of smaller sample sizes.

A regional breakdown of the figures showed Londoners were most likely to have made a foray online, with an estimated 90 per cent of those in the capital having accessed web content.

People in Northern Ireland were least likely to have embraced the digital age. In this area, 79 per cent of adults have gone online, the figures suggested.

The ONS said the overall increase in internet users since last year stood at 13 per cent and in the two years since it began to collate the data, it said the number of adults who have used the web has risen by 2.4 million (6 per cent), from an initial 41.1 million.

Its data showed income and disability remain a barrier to getting online.

"Individuals with no disability are over three times more likely to have used the internet than individuals with a disability," the ONS said. "Internet use has almost reached full coverage for those earning in excess of £500 a week, with internet use at 98 per cent or above for all adults with weekly pay rates above this level."

It found more than 5 per cent of workers with a gross weekly pay of less than £200 per week have never connected.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director-general at Age UK, says the statistics showed for the first time that the number of people aged 65 and older who have used the internet is greater than the number of those who have not.

"It is fantastic news that now more older people have used the internet than have not, with latest statistics showing that nearly 5.5 million people aged 65 or older have gone online compared to five million who haven't,” she says.

"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."

And she is calling on the Government to invest in greater training to "open up the web to all".

"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," she adds.

"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.

"It is also essential that the Government continues to ensure that offline methods to access services remain in place so that no one loses out as result of not being online."

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