Thursday, June 13, 2013

Internet Use and Connectivity in the US

In 2011, more Americans connected to the Internet than ever before, although differences continued to exist between those with use and those without. Just as with differences in use, variation in the ways that people were connecting online and the frequency of their use remained prevalent as well. A recent report of the Census Bureau, Computer and Internet Use in the United States, provides household and individual level analysis of computer and Internet use. The findings are based on data collected in a July 2011 supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS), which includes questions about computer ownership, Internet use both inside and outside the home, and the additional devices that people use to go online. The U.S. Census Bureau has asked questions in the CPS about computer use since 1984 and Internet use since 1997.This narrative report is complemented by a detailed table package that allows users to explore the data in more detail.
One of the more interesting pieces of the report deals with how connected people are with their devices. Access to computing technology and the Internet is not a simple “yes/no” proposition. As technology has changed and evolved over the years, people have seen an increase in the variation and number of ways they use computers and access the Internet. To explore this phenomenon further, a scale was developed for use in the report, designed to place individuals along a “connectivity continuum” of access variations, ranging from people with no Internet connection or computer, to those connecting from multiple locations and devices. The result is the following graphic – please be sure to note the percents in parens after each level of the continuum. These are the national sample percentages of people at this level of connectivity.
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In 2011, a plurality of Americans connected to the Internet from multiple locations and multiple devices (27.0 percent). These individuals were considered “high connectivity” individuals. The second most common position on the continuum was the opposite extreme—individuals without any computer or Internet activity at all (15.9 percent), or “no connectivity” individuals. The remaining 57 percent of Americans were located somewhere between these two extremes.

What surprised me in this report was the map below. It shows the percent of the population having high connectivity access. Basically states are broken into three classifications – those who have a significantly higher percentage of their population with high connectivity access than the national average (which was 27%) by the way); those who didn’t vary significantly from the national average; and those states that had a significantly lower percentage of their population having high connectivity access.

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As the report notes, “The majority of southern states lagged behind the nation in terms of highly connected individuals. The same can be said for segments of other regions, as pockets of the West, Midwest, and Northeast all contained multiple states with low percentages of high connectivity...” Unfortunately one of those states is New York ! Apparently we are working at a significant disadvantage when it comes to high  levels of connectivity to the internet.