Data is now available from the June 26, 2015 Pew Research Center Internet Survey, Americans’ Internet Access: 2000-2015.
Below is my summary; however, before you read it, what two groups in America do you think have the lowest Internet access: women, older adults, low-income adults, African-Americans, Latino/Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, those who lack a high school diploma, or those who live in rural areas?
[Write down your answer before you continue reading.]
- 84% of American adults now use the Internet. In 2000 it was a little over 50%. Note, however, that there has been little or no growth since 2012.
- Older adults still lag behind. “Older adults have lagged behind younger adults in their adoption, but now a clear majority (58%) of senior citizens uses the internet” and older adults as a group have a faster adoption rate than young adults. (I presume because young adults are already the group most likely to use the Internet.)
- Education and economic class differences affect access and use. “Those with college educations are more likely than those who do not have high school diplomas to use the internet. Similarly, those who live in households earning more than $75,000 are more likely to be internet users than those living in households earning less than $30,000. Still, the class-related gaps have shrunk dramatically in 15 years as the most pronounced growth has come among those in lower-income households and those with lower levels of educational attainment.” Note: 66% of those who have not completed high school, now use the internet. 74% of those with household incomes below $30K have Internet access.
- Racial and ethnic differences still matter but the gap has narrowed. “African-Americans and Hispanics have been somewhat less likely than whites or English-speaking Asian-Americans to be internet users, but the gaps have narrowed. Today, 78% of African-Americans and 81% of Latino/Hispanic-Americans use the internet, compared with 85% of whites and 97% of English-speaking Asian-Americans.
- Internet access for those in rural areas is still lower but the gap has narrowed. “Those who live in rural areas are less likely than those in the suburbs and urban areas to use the internet.” Only 78% of rural residents are online.
- Gender. There has been gender parity for fifteen years.
If you wrote “older adults” (58%) and “those who lack a high school diploma” (66%) you’re right; these are the two groups with the lowest rate of Internet access. Although the digital divide has narrowed, for some groups it is still a big problem, and perhaps for people who fit two or more of the gap categories — older, lacking a high school diploma, low family income, residing in a rural area, African-American, Latino/Hispanic American – as many adult basic skills learners do, the gap could be even larger.
Do any of the trends surprise you?
I was surprised that although immigrants are mentioned, “immigrants” is not in itself an Internet access category.
What role do you think adult basic education should play in helping the 34% of those who lack a high school diploma to obtain and prepare for using regular, daily Internet access? For example, should adult basic education (including English language learning) programs:
- Help adult learners and their families to get low-cost computers and subsidized access to the Internet?
- Help teachers purchase low-cost Internet hotspots for their classes so that learners with BYO devices or with portable program-owned devices such as laptops, Chromebooks or digital tablets can access the Internet in class?
- Teach digital literacy, and problem solving skills in the context of technology-rich environments?
- Purchase and loan portable digital devices to students?
- Collaborate with local public libraries who could purchase and lend portable digital devices?
- Advocate for legislation that narrows the digital divide adult basic skills learners, for example, by providing free Internet hotspots in all low-income communities?
- What else?
Please reply below with your thoughts about what roles adult basic education should take on to help narrow the digital divide for adult learners.
Consider sharing this blog article with your colleagues, and in your organization’s newsletter, but if you do, please let me know. Thanks.
David J. Rosen
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