The economic benefit of getting everyone online in the UK is £22bn, according to a report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
The economic boost would come from online shopping, greater access to employment for the unemployed and savings for government as more services are accessed online. Internet access for children is also likely to improve their performance at school.
The report shows that more than 10 million adults in the UK have never used the internet, and are missing out on £1bn worth of savings as a result.
It estimates that government could save at least £900m a year in customer contact costs if all digitally excluded adults made just one electronic contact a month.
Of the ten million offline adults in the UK, 40% are also socially excluded and are largely either over 65 or unemployed.
The government has set up the digital inclusion task force, chaired by lastminute.com founder Martha Lane Fox, to look at increasing the proportion of people who are online.
Lane Fox said, “There are many fantastic projects already working hard towards a more digitally enabled society. With a focus on peer-to-peer training, creative partnerships with private companies and replication of the best public sector projects we believe we can achieve a more digitally included society by 2012.”
Previous research on the issue has focussed on the moral or social arguments for increasing digital inclusion. These are the first figures that show the economic imperatives for getting more people on the web.