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7m 'have never used the internet'

More than seven million adults in the UK have never used the internet, official figures suggest.

The data revealed around one million more people have ventured on to the web since this time last year.

But the latest statistics show 14% of those over the age of 16 have never accessed material online.

Significantly more women than men have never used the internet (4.2 million compared with 2.8 million), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. It found 326,000 adults used the internet for the first time between January and March this year.

The ONS said: "Internet use is linked to various socio-economic and demographic characteristics, such as age, sex, disability, geographical location and weekly earnings. For example, those who are less likely to have used the internet include elderly and disabled adults."

A breakdown of the population by age showed almost all of those between 16 and 24 (99%) have used the web.

Those least likely to have connected were 75 or over. However, there was a marked increase in internet users among people of this age in the past two years. At the beginning of 2011, estimates suggested 23.8% of this demographic had accessed the internet, compared with 34.3% this year (1.6 million people). The 3.1 million non-users aged 75 or over make up 43% of the 7.1 million who have never connected, the ONS said. But it warned estimates relating to elderly people should be treated with a degree of caution because of smaller sample sizes.

A regional breakdown of the figures showed Londoners were most likely to have made a foray online. An estimated 90% of those in the capital have accessed web content. People in Northern Ireland were least likely to have embraced the digital age. In this area, 79% of adults have gone online, the figures suggested.

The ONS said the overall increase in internet users since last year stood at 13%. In the two years since it began to collate the data, it said the number of adults who have used the web has risen by 2.4 million (6%), from an initial 41.1 million.

Its data showed income and disability remain a barrier to getting online. "Individuals with no disability are over three times more likely to have used the internet than individuals with a disability," the ONS said. It added: "Internet use has almost reached full coverage for those earning in excess of £500 a week, with internet use at 98% or above for all adults with weekly pay rates above this level." It found more than 5% of workers with a gross weekly pay of less than £200 per week have never connected.

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