Who’s online? What are they doing? Who needs a computer?

Thanks to John Shepard for sending me the latest stats from the US Census on computer and Internet use. First it gave me an excuse to try out Easle.ly – a free online tool that lets you build inforgraphics easily. I’ve included my newly build infographic here. (Hardly a work of genius – but I thought folks might be interested in the tool.) Second, it’s always helpful to take a look at the stats of who is using the Internet and where.

Who is not accessing the Internet at home?

According to the stats, 3.2 percent of those surveyed accessed the Internet only outside of their home, indicating to me that most of them probably did not have Internet access. Here’s a quick look at the demographic where a higher percentage went outside the home to get online:

  • Ages 15-25 – 6.3 percent
  • Ages 25-34 – 4.2 percent
  • Hispanics – 4.4 percent
  • Black alone – 4 percent
  • Unemployed – 5 percent
  • Less than $50,000 household income – 4.4 percent
  • With children ages 6-17 – 4.2 percent

So again these are people who probably can’t access the Internet from home – but still find value in using it. As you look at the list, there is clearly an economic barrier to having home Internet access. I have to think of the number of kids (ages 6-25) who are going to Internet cafes and libraries to do homework. I’m glad the public access centers are there – but it’s hard enough to get kids to do homework when they can do it on the kitchen table, now add a trudge to the library. The drive to use more technology will have an impact on these homes.

Who doesn’t have a computer?

According to the stats 76.7 percent of households surveyed had a computer at home. That seems to include desktops, laptops and handhelds. (There is a follow up question asking what kind of computer and offers those options.) There are some striking differences between the haves and the have-nots in computer ownership. Here are stats on demographic who fell well below the average computer ownership numbers:

  • 55 years and over – 65.8 percent
  • Black alone – 65.1 percent
  • Hispanics – 66.6 percent
  • Less than $50,000 household income – 65.9 percent
  • Less than high school graduate – 44 percent
  • Some college or associate degree – 66.8 percent
  • Not in labor force – 60.8 percent

Again we see that economics probably play a role – but the most striking stat – 44 percent of folks without a high school degree do not have a computer. Education attainment is clearly a marker here. I’m just not sure whether the education factor is a cause or effect. But it seems like there’s a door to be opened here – rewarding education efforts with a computer. (Also there’s a 5 point difference in computer ownership based on whether the household is led by a man or woman!)

What are people doing online?

The census data goes into much greater detail covering many more topics – but I wanted to include these top three – ending with looking at what folks who are online are doing. Census asked about a couple of specific activities – here are the high level results:

  • Take a course online – 11.4 percent
  • Search about healthcare – 35.5 percent
  • Search for government services – 33.2 percent
  • Search for a job – 24.8 percent

Years ago I used to do Internet training. In 1995 that meant demonstrating the Internet to general public. The first thing I learned was to find out what the audience cared about – and use the Internet to help them learn more about that topic. I think these stats can help do the same. The stats above indicate that older folks are not online to the same extent as younger folks – but the report indicated that 46.2 percent of folks over 65 go online to search about healthcare. That indicates a general interest from the demographic. You want to reach folks 25-34? They are looking for job information. (I add that for readers who are interested in the Brain Gain!) You want to reach women or people with disabilities? They are also big healthcare searchers.

As I said, there’s much more to the stats – definitely worth checking out.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Research by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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