Survey exposes US digital divide problem
By Matt Whipp
Posted on 28 Oct 2005 at 13:42
New figures from the US Census Bureau show that the digital divide is still alive and well across the Atlantic.
While the figures are the most up to date released so far by the organisation, they are for the period 2003. But they throw up some interesting statistics nonetheless.
There is a clear digital haves and have nots dichotomy revealed. The number of the former continues to rise: nearly 62 per cent of US households had a computer and nearly 55 per cent were online i.e. if you can afford the PC you're likely to be able to afford an Internet connection as well.
This is certainly a testament to the importance of the Internet in our everyday lives. In 1997, only half of PC-owning households were online.
What the figures also reveal is a massive racial and education anomaly. The statistics for white and asian households showed 59.9 per cent and 66.7 per cent of households had Internet access. But the Black and Hispanic demographics both showed figures of 36 per cent.
The education level attained is also a big factor in the likelihood of a US household enjoying Internet access. Only a fifth of those that didn't make it past high school had Internet access. But 43 per cent of graduates said they had access and this rose to 62.6 per cent for those that went on from high school to any further education.
The actual economic situation of the household had less impact. While those families on very low incomes - less than $25,000 - were less likely to have Net access: only 30.7 per cent; for those earning above this bracket the figure ascended rapidly. Of those earning between $25,000 and $49,999, that figure jumped to 57.3 per cent, and the next band showed nearly 80 per cent usage.
The very poor then possibly have better things to spend their money on, but with any household with some degree of disposable income, access to the Internet is deemed important enough to shell out on.
Families were more likely to have Internet access at home, especially if they had children, and children themselves are more likely to use the Internet than their parents, no matter what their background. Of those living alone, little more than a third had access to the Internet at home. However, some said that they didn't have a home connection because they use a connection elsewhere, most probably at work.
There still remained a significant portion of households without Net access - 45 per cent overall. Nearly two-fifths of these said that they were simply not interested. Nearly a quarter said they couldn't afford it or that their computer was not up to it. But worries about security, stumbling across dodgy websites, or privacy fears were rarely mentioned, at 1 per cent.
What is interesting is that the computer itself is seen as little more than a device for accessing the Internet. A percentile of 7 per cent separated those with a computer and those with both a computer and Internet access, while at the other end of the scale, four out of five without Internet access also did not have a computer.
You can find the full report here.
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