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The communications regulator has found that fewer than half the UK population have used online government services.

In a report published on 20 March 2009, Ofcom says that 42 per cent of those interviewed had used the internet to search for information about government or local council services, or used online services such as paying for road tax or registering for Child Tax Credits. Among people who have the internet at home, this figure rises to 55 per cent.

Of the people surveyed living in areas of "multiple deprivation", defined by factors including economic, social and housing issues, only 15 per cent said they have used online information or services.

The report points to a lack of awareness of what can be done online, including getting in touch with a local council or contacting a member of Parliament. Of those interviewed, 31 per cent said they were unaware of the online services available to them. The figure rises to 72 per cent for those in deprived areas.

Trust and confidence are also issues. 46 per cent of respondents from areas of multiple deprivation did not trust the internet for civic activities, and 40 per cent lacked the confidence to use online public services.

Across all those interviewed, nine per cent said they lacked confidence to participate in public service activities online and the same proportion agreed that they did not sufficiently trust the internet for public services.

Michael Larner, senior analyst at Kable, said: "Although the report is encouraging in some ways, it is also symptomatic of the continuing digital divide. Local authorities need to juggle online and face to face engagements with citizens in order to deliver appropriate types of service."

Ofcom questioned a national representative sample of 2,069 adults aged 16 years and over for a UK general population survey; 2,003 adults in the UK who have internet access for its online user survey and 100 adults living in selected areas of deprivation, including Townhill in Wales, Belfast, Rochdale and Hackney in east London.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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