Monday, February 12, 2007

Web 2.0 and Poverty Research 1

The 2005 US Census bureau report on computer and interet use has some revealing statistics. In 2003, 61.8% of households in the US have a computer, and 54.7% households (so almost all housholds with a computer) have internet access. That is pretty impressive, considering that 10 years ago noone had internet access and 21 years ago, in 1984, only 8% of American households had computers. I'd be interested to hear any comparisons to any similarly radical transformations - when has a household product become so pervasive so quickly before? The TV? the Radio?

Households are more likely to have computer and internet access as the number of people in household rises. Also higher likelihood with higher education and higher annual income. Only 41% of families with income of under $25,000 have one or more computer in the home and only 30% have internet access. That means that of 13,905 families in the study with incomes of under $25,000, only 4,276 had internet access in 2003.

As for why families did not have internet access, the most commonly given reasons were that families lacked interest, lacked money, or lacked an adequate computer. All other reasons were far less often cited. Older householders were more likely to say they were not interested in the internet, and 20-40 year old householders were more likely to say that they couldn't afford internet access or that they had an inadequate computer.

One finding I don't quite understand: children from families with higher incomes were slightly more likely to use computers at school. I suppose this might be because higher income kids go to different schools with better access?

Public school kids tend to use the internet AT SCHOOL just a touch more than private school kids.

Here is another surprise - since 2001 women use the computer at home more than men by just a couple percent (83.5%:81.5%) Also, more women use the computer at work, this time by a larger margin (62.5%:50.5%) and women use the internet at work much more than men (47.4%:39.2%)

As for why people in the United States use the internet, the study's numbers are not too surprising. E-mail is the most important internet function (almost everybody in the study does it), followed by information about products and services, news, info about government and health services, purchasing products, games and other uses.

So what does all this mean? I'm not going to try to draw any broad conclusions - if you do please share!

But basically computer use and internet use is pretty widespread. The most financially disenfranchised groups are still kept away from computer use at home, but with access at schools and other public places, most people (especially most young people) have access of some kind.

Who is shut out of the internet revolution in the United States? I can't really answer that question with the data here. I would guess that the un-computered is a small group of mostly poor, mostly older individuals. Many of them live in the south United States (states like Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama having the lowest rates of computer and internet use, and by region, the Midwest and the South have the 3rd and 4th lowest computer and internet use. The West has the highest)

But is this much of a problem? What does one get shut out of for not having computer and internet access? How important is it to one's financial well being? Only a small percentage of people use the web for banking and job hunting, so the internet-less aren't necessarily losing out there. I dunno. At this point I'll turn this over to you.

What I need to figure out now is -
1) What about internet and computer use/access in other countries?
2) What exactly are the benefits of computer use/access? What does one miss out on for not having it?

1 comment:

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