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This paper presents the results of multi-variate analyses of the social, economic and educational characteristics associated with reporting both access to the Internet and using the Internet for four key purposes: banking and finance, purchasing goods or services, accessing government or official services and looking for work or employment. The research was conducted using nationally representative, individual-level, repeated cross-sectional data (n = 47,001) collected in annual surveys in the UK between 2002 and 2010. The results of the analyses show that although Internet access and use have increased over the period studied, both continue to be structured according to occupational class, educational background and, to some extent, age. The sex and ethnicity of respondents had little impact on the probability of reporting Internet access and were only strongly related to using the Internet for purchasing goods or services. Additionally, the presence of children in a household was unimportant in relation to both Internet access or use. While the findings differ slightly from previous studies they confirm that both Internet access and use remain structured along socio-economic and educational lines that work against already disadvantaged groups. This has remained the case in the UK throughout the 2000s despite considerable technological change and policy interventions specifically targeting marginalized sections of society. The paper concludes that policy interventions aimed at both increasing and widening Internet access and use will be ineffective unless the social, rather than technological, basis of inequalities in access and use are recognized.
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Keywords: ICTs; digital divide; e-commerce; e-government; social policy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology,University of Leicester, Leicester, UK 2: [email protected], Email: [email protected], URL:"> Institute of Education, London, UK< xmlns:xlink="" xlink:href="">[email protected], Email: [email protected], URL:

Publication date: February 1, 2013

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