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Digital divide closes further, but poorest families still left behind

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The number of school children without an internet connection at home has fallen once more, as the digital divide comes closer to being eradicated.

However, campaigners have warned that we must not become complacent.

In particular, the new figures show that many children from single-parent families and the poorest households are still unable to access the internet at home.

According to the latest Family Spending Survey from the Office of National Statistics, 81 per cent of all households now have a home computer, and 79 per cent are connected to the internet at home.

However, this figure masks a stark divide between rich and poor. Of the richest 10 per cent of homes, 99 per cent have a computer and access to the internet. Meanwhile, of the poorest 10 per cent of households, 49 per cent have a computer and only 45 per cent are online.

Furthermore, households with two adults and two or more children show high levels of computer ownership, with 98 per cent owning a home computer and 97 per cent being online. Households with two adults and one child have 96 per cent ownership and online access.

However, just 85 per cent of single-parent homes with two or more children have a home computer while 89 per cent report having an internet connection.

For single parents with just one child, home computer ownership is at 86 per cent with 85 per cent online.

Valerie Thompson, chief executive of the e-Learning Foundation, a charity dedicated to closing the digital divide, said: “This year’s data shows that the number of children who don’t have access to a PC and the internet at home has fallen below the half a million mark for the first time.

“This is excellent news for the significant number of children who have suffered educational disadvantage by lacking home access to learning technology that most other children take for granted. 

“It is now a realistic objective that every school-age child in this country can get online at home within the next two to three years.”

However, Ms Thompson highlighted the challenges still faced by some families. 

For example, she said that while 17 per cent of all households with children are single-parent families, children from single-parent families make-up 42 per cent of the total number of digitally excluded children.

It comes as the e-Learning Foundation is set to launch Mind the Gap, a new campaign aimed at giving an impetus to finally closing the digital divide. 

It is being run with Quib.ly and will be launched this month by Lord Puttnam. For details, visit www.mindthegap.org.uk


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