People offline need help getting online


Pew Research recently released their latest data on who is not online. Here’s a high level look…

  • 15% of American adults do not use the internet at all, and another 9% of adults use the internet but not at home.

As of May 2013, 15% of American adults ages 18 and older do not use the internet or email. Asked why they do not use the internet:

  • 34% of non-internet users think the internet is just not relevant to them, saying they are not interested, do not want to use it, or have no need for it.
  • 32% of non-internet users cite reasons tied to their sense that the internet is not very easy to use. These non-users say it is difficult or frustrating to go online, they are physically unable, or they are worried about other issues such as spam, spyware, and hackers. This figure is considerably higher than in earlier surveys.
  • 19% of non-internet users cite the expense of owning a computer or paying for an internet connection.
  • 7% of non-users cited a physical lack of availability or access to the internet.

Last summer, Connect Minnesota came out with a similar study for Minnesota and found that

  • 22% of adults did not subscribe to broadband at home

Of that 22%…

  • 41% said it wasn’t relevant
  • 19% said cost
  • 15% didn’t know
  • 13% lacked digital skills
  • 6% said it wasn’t available

There’s a distinction between the surveys; Pew looks as use and Connect MN looks at subscription but give that wiggle room and the fact that the survey is a year apart, the numbers are too different – except as Pew points out the number of people who lack digital skills or comfort is much higher in the more recent survey. What’s nice is that they went a step further to see what could possibly be down to reach them…

Overall, most adults who do not use the internet or email do not express a strong desire to go online in the future: just 8% of offline adults say they would like to start using the internet or email, while 92% say they are not interested. We also offline adults whether they would need assistance going online if they did wish to do so, and found that only 17% of all non-internet users say they would be able to start using the internet on their own, while 63% say they would need assistance.

I think it helps make the case that digital literacy and digital inclusion initiatives are valuable. I think the 34-41 percent who don’t see the relevance help make the case for a some kind of public service promotional campaign. Unfortunately I think that education is very tied into understanding of value. And in my experience we’re down to the folks are the very far reach of the digital divide and a one-to-many approach doesn’t work as well as the high tough individual training.