The internet is a total unknown to one in six adults in Lancashire according to the latest research.
More than 15 per cent of people across the county have never used the world wide web, while a quarter do not possess even rudimentary online skills.
The figures, produced by digital charity Go ON UK, show that while almost 90 per cent of Lancashire households now have access to at least basic broadband, a sixth of the adult population is either unable or unwilling to make use of it.
“The UK is experiencing a digital skills crisis,” said Go ON UK chief executive Rachel Neaman. “12.6m adults, 1.2m small businesses and over half of all charities lack the basic digital skills to success in today’s digital age.
“Digital competency isn an essential skill for everyone and we believe that, without urgent action, the nation’s lack of these skills will continue to hold back economic growth, productivity and social mobility.”
The research puts Lancashire at “medium” risk of suffering digital exclusion. Across the County Council area 15.5 per cent of all adults have never been online or used the internet directly.
Yet only one in 10 homes fall below the Government’s standard for basic broadband access at two megabits a second.
On a positive note around three quarters possess all five basic digital skills, while up to 40 per cent have used those skills over the three months of the survey.
But results for the county’s two unitary authorities – Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen – are significantly inferior.
Blackpool has emerged as one of the worst in the UK with a staggering 31 per cent of the adult population never having used the internet – even though broadband connectivity in the resort is better than the rest of Lancashire. Blackburn with Darwen has 22.2 per cent of adults who have yet to go online.
“Getting online is very important in today’s tech-savvy world,” said Coun Matthew Brown, Preston’s cabinet member for social justice, inclusion and policy. “It can also lead to financial inclusion as it opens up avenues for cheaper energy, shopping, access to benefits and job prospects which can, in turn, take people out of peverty. We offer numerous opportunities for people to be trained on how to get online.”
Nationally almost 5.9m adults (11 per cent) admit they have never used the internet. That figure has fallen steadily from 9.2m in 2010.
Worldwide, out of 7.1bn people, only 3.2bn are internet users. It is expected four billion will still be offline at the end of the year – still well short of the 60 per cent that the Broadband Commission had hoped for in 2015.
Not surprisingly, older adults are the most likely not to use the internet. Other significant factors include education, income and long-term illness or disability.
Age Concern in Central Lancashire runs a free computer course for older people who are looking to join the internet age.
Events officer Erin Harkin said: “I think a big barrier for a lot of people is confidence. Some may not have the confidence to try something they’re unfamiliar with.
“Times are changing. More people need to be online due to the fact that a lot more of the world is online. It is important for people to keep up with the changes.”
• 15.5 per cent of adults in Lancashire have never been online.
• 89.6 per cent of households in the county have access to at least basic broadband (two megabits per second).
• 77 per cent of adults in most parts of Lancashire possess the five basic digital skills.
• Up to 40 per cent have used those skills in the last three months.
• Proportion of over-65s in each Lancashire district ranges from 14.5 per cent in Preston to 26.4 per cent in Wyre.
• Percentage of adults without educational qualifications ranges from 29.4 per cent in Lancaster district to 43.7 per cent in Burnley.
• Unitary authorities Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen have significantly worse figures. Blackpool has a staggering 31 per cent who have never used the internet, with Blackburn with Darwen showing 22.2 per cent.
• Nationally 5.9m (11 per cent) of adults have never gone online - down from 9.2m in 2010.
• 9.5m people in the UK do not possess even basic digital skills.
• Worldwide only 3.2bn of the 7.125bn people on the planet are internet users.
• Only 34 per cent of homes in the developing world have the internet, compared to 82 per cent in the developed world.