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Digital Inclusion

NTIA Finds Digital Divide Disproportionately Effects Blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans

Jericho Casper

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Photo of girl using computer by Globaloria used with permission

June 11, 2020 — A survey from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, conducted in November 2019, is a crucial snapshot of internet usage in America prior to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, revealing a continued gap in bandwidth access.  The report is the 15th edition of the agency’s Internet Use Survey.

The data revealed that the digital divide continues to disproportionally impact individuals based on race, income level and age group.

According to the survey, Hispanic and African Americans were 7 percent less likely to have access to the Internet than white Americans, while Asian Americans were 4 percent less likely to have access.

The digital divide especially affects low-income families; just 65 percent of households with incomes below $25,000 a year have access to internet, while 87 percent of those with annual family incomes of $100,000 have access.

The demographic which experienced the largest growth in Internet usage was seniors ages 65 and older, increasing by 5 points to 68 percent.

The survey revealed Americans are increasingly using a wider range of devices to access the internet.

Sixty-four percent of Americans reported using at least two computing devices, and 45 percent reported utilizing three devices. NTIA predicted that the trend of Americans utilizing multiple devices would continue to grow in coming years.

Of course, the ability to access multiple devices differed among demographic groups. People with annual family incomes below $25,000 reported using an average of 1.4 different types of devices, while those with family incomes of $100,000 or more reported using an average of 2.8 device types.

The survey collected data on the popularity of different devices, which has changed dramatically since NTIA began collecting data on computing devices separately.

In 2011, when only 27 percent of Americans utilized smartphones, desktop PCs were the most commonly used computing device. Data collected in the 2019 survey revealed the popularity of smartphones has boomed in recent years, currently used by 68 percent of Americans.

NTIA is working to gain insights into how the pandemic has impacted the digital divide since November.

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