Data/Analysis: “Digitally Unconnected in the U.S.: Who’s Not Online and Why?”
Data from NTIA’s July 2015 Computer and Internet Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey confirm that the digital divide persists. In 2015, 33 million households (27 percent of all U.S. households) did not use the Internet at home, where families can more easily share Internet access and conduct sensitive online transactions privately. Significantly, 26 million households–one-fifth of all households–were offline entirely, lacking a single member who used the Internet from any location in 2015.
NTIA’s 2015 survey delved deeper into some of the reasons behind the two most frequently cited reasons for not using the Internet at home. As a result, interviewers separated the previously combined “don’t need” and “not interested” answers and refined the “too expensive” response into “can’t afford” and “not worth the cost” categories based on replies from those who were interviewed.
The 2015 data shows that of the 55 percent of households that didn’t use the Internet at home because of a lack of interest in or need for the service, 60 percent said they didn’t need the service, while the remaining 40 percent stated they had no interest in it. These more detailed reasons for not using the Internet at home may facilitate development of policies and programs that address the specific concerns of these non-using households. For example, households that stated a lack of interest in the service may require a different approach that focuses on ways the Internet can benefit them than households that stated they did not need home Internet access.
Further, of the 24 percent of households that said they didn’t use the Internet at home because of cost concerns, an overwhelming 92 percent explained they could not afford it, compared to a mere 8 percent that responded the service was not worth the cost. This suggests that cost is still a barrier for a meaningful percentage of non-adopting households.
Thirty-one percent of non-adopting households that once had home Internet responded that they could not afford the service, while only 20 percent of never-adopting households gave the same main reason for non-use.
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About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.