31/08/2011 13:02 BST | Updated 31/10/2011 05:12 GMT

Nearly One In Five British Adults Have Never Used The Internet, Statistics Show

Nearly nine millions adults in Britain have never used the Internet, statistics show, exposing the rift between the old and the young when it comes to embracing the digital age.

The figure represents 17.4 per cent adult population, the Office for National Statistics said in a report released on Wednesday, with the over-65s the least likely to have been online.

Age UK said that while it was good news that many older people were online, it was vital that access was widened, as 5.7 million over-65s still had never used the Internet.

The statistics showed only 24 per cent of the over-75s had ever accessed the web, while just 57.6 per cent of those aged between 65-74 had been online in their lifetime.

Helena Herklots, the charity's service director said:"The web can help boost finances and tackle isolation by things like saving money on shopping and keeping in touch with loved ones more easily, so it's great that over four million older people have used the Internet," she said.

"Of course there are still over 5.7 million people in later life who have never been online, which is why Age UK is running a itea and biscuits week in September. The week gives older people the chance to learn how to use a range of technology like smart phones and computers through taster sessions run across the country.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the most internet savvy were 16-24 year olds, with only 0.9 per cent, or 64,000, never having accessed the internet.

Similarly only 2.1 per cent of 25-34 year olds, the group who came of age at the birth of Facebook and Google, have never been online.

People with disabilities also represented a large proportion of those who had so far not used the Internet. There were 4.24 million disabled adults who had never used the Internet, almost half of all those who had never used it.

The government has said it wants to increasingly see public services provided digitally "by default‟ in order to save money and improve efficiency. But those unable, or unwilling, to get online could be at risk being left behind and becoming isolated from digital-only services.

In 2010 Prime Minister David Cameron appointed the co-founder of successful travel website, Martha Lane Fox, as his 'Digital Champion' in order to drive up internet use.

Commenting on the statistics via Twitter, appropriately enough, Fox said the figures showed it was "still vital to get people online".

Fox heads up Race 2012 whose ambitious aim is to get everyone of working age online by the end of next year, as well as teaching internet skills to all retirees.

It is only the second time that statistics on Internet use in the UK have been compiled. The Office for National Statistics said number of people who said they had not used the Internet had decreased by 12,000 since the first quarter of 2011, but noted the change was "not statistically significant".

Separate data also published today showed that 77 per cent of households had access to the internet. Of those who did not have internet access at home, 50 per cent said they did not want it anyway. While 21 per cent said they lacked the skills.

The figures also revealed that 45 per cent of internet users used a mobile phone to connect to the Internet and six million people accessed the Internet over their mobile phone for the first time in the previous 12 months.