Wednesday, January 17, 2007

2005 data: Half of Cleveland adults not on the Net

How serious is the digital divide in Ohio's big cities? There's not much local data about computer and Internet use, but we know from national surveys like this one from Pew/Internet that poorer and less educated Americans remain far less likely to be Internet users than the whole population. And we have this:

In 2005, Cleveland Digital Vision purchased recent survey data from consumer polling firm Scarborough Research for the seventeen ZIP codes in the city of Cleveland. (Scarborough conducts regular surveys of adult consumers in 75 U.S. metropolitan areas). The data we acquired on computer ownership and Internet use was included in testimony presented to the PUCO in its investigation of the merger between SBC and AT&T.

Here's how our testimony summarized what the data told us:
Only 55% of all Cleveland adults have computers in their homes. Only half are using the Internet at all, and barely 4 out of 10 have used the Net from home in the past month. Internet access of any kind falls to only 34% for adults with high school degrees or less, and to just 30% for those with household incomes below $25,000. The percentages are worse for African-Americans than for whites, and worse for residents of Hispanic origin that for either blacks or whites. Fewer than half of our households – possibly as few as 40% -- have Internet service at any speed, and only 20% have broadband connections.

Thus our survey data shows that Cleveland residents, especially those of lower income and educational attainment, remain substantially disconnected from the Internet, stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide and outside the communications mainstream.

... the Cleveland adults surveyed by Scarborough Research were significantly less likely to access the Internet than the national sample of adults polled by Pew, in every demographic category except the highest (i.e. college graduates and households making $75,000 or more). Adults in low income households, adults with high school educations or less, Black and Hispanic adults -- all show Internet access rates in Cleveland that are 10 to 20 percentage points lower than the national average.
Would the numbers look any better in Cincinnati, Toledo or Dayton? Probably a little better -- like their numbers for personal income and educational attainment, the two factors most closely linked to Internet use. But to the extent that other Ohio cities share Cleveland's problems of poverty and educational failure, it's a pretty safe bet that they share Cleveland's digital divide as well.

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