It’s time to get resort online

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Almost one in three adults in Blackpool has never been online, making it the internet blackspot of England.

Startling new figures claim 31 per cent of people in the resort are totally switched off when it comes to using the world wide web.

I think a big barrier for a lot of people is confidence

Erin Harkin

Only one other part of the UK - the Isle of Anglesey - has a lower digital uptake with a staggering 40.9 per cent of adults either unwilling or unable to log on, according to a nationwide survey.

But Blackpool’s record is made worse by the fact that 93.7 per cent of the town’s households now have internet connectivity equal to or better than the Government’s basic standard, compared to just 84.7 per cent in North Wales and 89.6 per cent across Lancashire.

The figures, provided by digital skills charity Go ON UK from research carried out by Ipsos MORI, are twice as bad as district councils in the county.

Neighbouring boroughs Fylde and Wyre are both home to 15.5 per cent of adults who have never tried the internet.

Nationally 11 per cent, or 5.9m people, are still totally offline despite the world’s increasing dependency on the web. That figure has fallen steadily from 9.2m in 2010.

Worldwide, out of 7.1bn people on the planet, only 3.2bn are internet users, well short of the 60 per cent that the Broadband Commission had hoped for in 2015.

“The UK is experiencing a digital skills crisis,” warned 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 needed to succeed in today’s digital age.

“Digital competency is 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.”

Not surprisingly older people make up the bulk of those who find the internet a total 
turn off.

Yet only 20.3 per cent of Blackpool’s population is aged over 65, compared to 26.4 per cent in Wyre and 26.1 per cent in Fylde.

Age Concern in 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.”

Blackpool hosted an event for “silver surfers” earlier this month, with some logging on to the web for the first time in free taster sessions.

Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “It can be a daunting step to get online for the first time.

“However the benefits of being connected to the internet are huge.

“For individuals it can do a range of things, from accessing helpful services and information, to keeping in touch with friends and relatives.

“For businesses, the potential boost from getting online is massive.

“It can help get new customers, find cheaper suppliers and manage your tax returns in a much easier way.

“There are a number of ways to get help to go online, and these computer courses are a really relaxed way of learning the basics. It couldn’t be easier to get started online and we will help you every step of the way.”

Following changes to Universal Credit, all Blackpool applicants claiming the benefit now need to do so through the internet.

And it is not a problem that just affects the older generation.

Research shows that while a lot of younger people know how to look at social media on their phones, they struggle when it comes to searching and completing forms over the internet.