The digital divide is apparently alive and well.
About 20 percent of all U.S. heads-of-household have never sent an e-mail, and about 20 million households, or 18 percent, are without Internet access, according to a study released earlier this week.
Similar percentages of respondents also indicated that they had never looked up a Web site or information on the Internet, the survey found.
Age and education were significant factors cited in the study, which was conducted by researcher Parks Associates. Half of those who have never used e-mail are older than 65 and 56 percent had no formal education beyond a high school level, the telephone survey found.
"Nearly one out of three household heads has never used a computer to create a document," John Barrett, director of research at Parks Associates, said in a statement. "These data underscore the significant digital divide between the connected majority and the homes in the unconnected minority that rarely, if ever, use a computer."
Just 7 percent of the 20 million households without Internet access indicated during the survey that they plan to subscribe to an Internet service within the next 12 months. However, the study noted a steady decline in the number of disconnected households when comparing findings with previous years; the 2006 survey found that 31 million households, or 29 percent, of all U.S. households were without Internet access.
"Internet connections have slowly increased in U.S. households, but getting the disconnected minority online will continue to be difficult," Barrett said in the statement. "Age and economics are important factors, but the heart of the challenge is deeper. Many people just don't see a reason to use computers and do not associate technology with the needs and demands of their daily lives."