North-South internet divide widens

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Almost 80 percent of people aged 65 and over never use the internet, according to the latest results from the Ipsos MORI Engage study, which also identifies a growing North-South divide in technology usage to match the generation gap.

Although 58 percent of people nationally currently use the internet at home (62 percent of men and 54 percent of women), and broadband access is running at 50 percent of adult Internet users, 80 percent of over-65s do not use any online services, say latest figures.

Ipsos MORI has been measuring technology usage in the UK on a monthly basis for the past decade, and its latest batch of figures are a wake-up call to all organisations and companies who use digital and interactive services to reach customers across the country.

The figures also show that, despite talk of ‘silver surfers’ and the ‘grey pound’, many over-65s have yet to receive the personal benefits of any form of digital technology, including mobile phones and interactive TV, as well as internet-based services.

While the personal usage of mobile phones across the overall population has increased from just 13 percent in 1997 to 85 percent in 2006, 44 percent of people aged 65 and over do not use mobiles, says MORI. Only 16 percent of 65-year-olds who do possess a mobile use text messaging, while just one percent use photo messaging services.

The Engage study indicates a widening gap among some sectors of the population over the ten years of research, and little uptake in some service areas despite increased technology usage. For example, the survey team reported a virtual Hadrian’s Wall in geographical uptake of internet services: 73 percent of adults in the South use the internet, compared to only 57 percent in the North.

With its broader social appeal, digital TV is the platform most frequently used in the home, says the survey, being watched by 68 percent of all British adults by the end of 2006. However, the survey found that usage of interactive services on the platform remains dormant across all sectors of the population, despite the increased uptake of digital TV: use of ‘red button’ services has only grown by one percent over the past two years (21 percent in December 2006 compared with 20 percent in December 2004).

The Engage survey asks around 4,000 consumers aged 15+ in Great Britain about their usage of different types of technology each month, including: mobile phones and services ; the Internet; broadband; narrowband; digital TV and interactive services.

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