Information poverty gap is widening, says report

Information is a commodity, and not all of the UK population can afford it in the Internet age

Those with money have it, while those who do not probably never will, and so the technology divide widens. These are the conclusions of another Internet report published Tuesday.

The report, from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) covers Internet use in the first quarter of 2000 and, like similar reports published today, finds Internet use has doubled overall.

But Net use among the poorest third of the UK has increased just three percent since last year, giving a grand total of just six percent. Compared to households with a weekly income exceeding £900 -- more than 50 percent are online -- the figures confirm fears over the digital divide.

This comes just months after the government was soundly lambasted by an internal policy action group for failing to address the needs of those cut off from the Internet in the UK.

The report also shows a strengthening geographical pattern in Internet use in the UK, with more affluent areas such as the South East showing particularly strong Internet adoption.

This is the first official government survey of Internet use in the UK and adds weight to growing concerns over Net access for the UK's poorer population. Prime minister Tony Blair has voiced concerns several times over the emergence of a society divided by technology.

The government concedes there is work to be done but promises it will tackle the issue.

"Obviously the government is aware it has to drive forward the agenda in closing the 'digital divide'," says a cabinet office spokesman. "The government has launched a number of initiatives that will be key to tackling the divide."

The government has launched projects to get all libraries and schools online, offers discounted computers to poorer families and has created Internet "public access" points across the country.

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