Mobile internet use in the UK continued to soar in 2011 with nearly half of internet users logging on in the past year via their smartphones, but a quarter of households remain without a connection as the digital divide shows no signs of closing, according to the latest government statistics.
The annual research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) put the number of internet users accessing web sites via their phones at 45 per cent, up from 31 per cent last year and 23 per cent in 2009.
The proliferation of public Wi-Fi hotspots appears to be helping to drive this trend, seeing a near doubling in use from seven to 13 per cent.
However, the digital divide between the old and young showed no sign of abating. Some 71 per cent of 16 to 24 year-old internet users accessed the mobile internet, but just eight per cent of users aged 65+ did so.
The general statistics on internet access were equally disappointing. The number of households with internet access increased by just four per cent from 73 to 77 per cent, leaving nearly a quarter of homes without an internet connection.
This tallies with an Ofcom report early in August which found that a quarter of UK residents still don't have broadband.
Ernest Doku, technology expert at comparison site uSwitch.com, warned that the digital divide is widening.
"Most younger Britons see the internet as a necessity, not a luxury. Many are now using smartphones as their primary way of accessing the net, rather than home computers, and are becoming used to the idea of having the world in their pocket," he said.
"But while young Britons now take instant, and often constant, internet access in their stride, the awkward truth is that more than eight million adults still have never used the internet. Whether this is due to a lack of information, expense or simply thinking it does not concern them, this is a great shame."
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