Rural Pulse on Access to Technology

Today the Blandin Foundation unveiled the Rural Pulse, a survey of 1500 folks in rural Minnesota, designed to give a real-time snapshot of rural Minnesota’s concerns, perceptions and priorities. So what’s the quick take? It’s all about jobs. Here are a few highlights from the results:

  • 65 percent of rural Minnesotans say there are insufficient local job opportunities in their communities; that’s up from 53 percent from the 2000 Rural Pulse.
  • 29 percent indicate that their local economy had worsened over the last year
  • 37 percent said their community’s quality of life had declined

BUT it also said

  • 68 percent thought the quality of life would improve over the next five years
  • 87 percent felt that people like them are able to make an impact and make their community a better place to live

Those attitudes are coupled with a general sense that their communities are controlling crime, providing services for the elderly, are good stewards of the environment and that roads, sewers and bridges are in good shape.

Dave Peters had a good theory on why we see these seemingly incongruous answers.

One answer is that we like to think highly of our specific place and the people we know. We hate Congress but love our representative. Poll respondents by and large also said their roads, bridges and health care providers were adequate, too, at a time bridge studies and rural health care reports give reason for concern.

But a second reason is that there’s a disconnect, understandable but an obstacle.

There was one question that caught my eye:

Fifty three percent of rural residents strongly agreed and 33 percent somewhat agreed that their community has adequate access to technology, with 13 percent disagreeing with that belief.

This fed into Dave’s assessment on the disconnect. Those of us who promote technology wonder how folks can’t see the connection, but as Dave pointed out for folks who don’t live and breathe this stuff, the connection to technology can be difficult to make. I wondered if there were demographic differences in folks who thought we were OK with access to technology and those who didn’t. I figured the folks in Northeast Minnesota might think there was a problem – since between the ARRA and Google Gig opportunities they have been vocal with their needs and key stakeholders have been good about drumming up community interest.

I also figured that older folks might think we were OK with technology, because other research has indicated that older folks are not as interested in going online – and therefore I thought they might not be concerned with access. Also I assumed younger folks might be frustrated with speeds and might think there are issues with access.

The folks at Russell Herder, who performed the research, were kind enough to share greater details on the question with me – and I was a little surprised. Here is what they found:

Community Does Good Job Providing Access to Technology – Somewhat or Strongly Agree:

More than $100k – 91%
$60-100k – 86%
$35-60k – 86%
$35k or less – 83%

West Central – 93%
Northwest – 91%
Southwest – 87%
Southeast – 86%
Central – 82%
Northeast – 76%

18-24 – 97%
25-34 – 86%
35-49 – 87%
50-65 – 84%
65+ – 77%

So I was right on the regional difference and way off on the age aspects, but once I see the breakdown I have new theories. I’m heartened to see that folks over 65 thought enough about to indicate that this is an issue. It indicates to me there’s an interest in technology – a door to adoption. It occurs to me that younger folks aren’t as aware of any issues – because many may have access at school. The differences in incomes did not surprise me. The greater the income, the  happier folks were with access to technology. I suspect that may reflect actual access based on broadband access to specific neighborhoods, but also the greater the income the decline in concern about cost as a barrier to technology.

It’s valuable information for policymakers, service providers and anyone interested in promoting or supporting broadband expansion.

3 thoughts on “Rural Pulse on Access to Technology

  1. Thanks for digging further into the results. That older Minnesotans are the least satisfied with access to technology strikes me as odd, too.

    It makes me wonder what poll respondents were really answering. When you and I see the numbers in this context, we’re tempted to think about Internet access. Perhaps they were thinking about some other aspect of technology — good doctors, transit.

  2. You know I wondered the same – but with a focus on the other word – access. Does access mean high speed broadband at home or does access at the local library suffice? Does access mean skills to use or presence of technology? And that leads into your good point – what’s technology?

    On a semi-related note (technology and seniors) I can’t wait to see what the impact on i-Pads and access. I suspect many folks will be getting i-Pads this holiday season and I think many of them will be grandparents!

  3. Pingback: Have plan, will deploy in Australia « Blandin on Broadband

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