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13 July 2007

The Net advantage

By Mike Butcher

With broadband at the kind of pricing that a dial-up modem went for in the mid-90s you’d think the whole nation was online playing World of Warcraft by now. Wrong.

The latest research says the “digital divide” between those with convenient access to the Internet and those without is actually deepening. The report shows that that three in four people counted as socially excluded are also “digitally excluded”, and that the movement upwards has stalled with only marginally more people online today than three years ago.

The report “Understanding digital inclusion” was conducted by researchers FreshMinds, and commissioned by UK online centres, which are managed by the University for Industry.

It lays the reponsibility for bridging the divide at the door of public, private and third sector organisations.

It’s quite clear that Internet access is now a considerable advantage. As the report says, for 61% of the population it offers a connection to better paid jobs, instant information, new forms of communication and social interaction, community infrastructure, government services, consumer power and convenience, says the report.

However, a stable 39% are not reached by the Net’s riches. Those already at a disadvantage are three times more likely to be the ones missing out. The research is also informing the government’s upcoming digital strategy review.

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