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Digital Divide Basics Fact Sheet
Digital Divide Network Staff, Benton Foundation

Global Perspective
There are an estimated 429 million people online globally, but even this staggering number is small when considered in context. For example, of those 429 million, fully 41% are in North America. Also, 429 million represents only 6% of the world’s entire population.

Other facts:
The United States has more computers than the rest of the world combined.
When assessed by region, Internet use is dominated by North Americans:

41% of the global online population is in the United States & Canada
27% of the online population lives in Europe, the Middle East and Africa(25% of European Homes are online)
20% of the online population logs on from Asia Pacific(33% of all Asian Homes are online)
Only 4% of the world’s online population are in South America

(Source: First Quarter 2001 Global Internet Trends, Neilsen/Netratings) Even among highly developed nations, there exist vast differences in the availability of home Internet access. Sweden ranks as the nation with the highest percentage of home Internet connections at 61%; Spain trails the list with only 20% of its homes connected. (Source: Neilsen/Netratings, February 2001)

The Pew Internet and American Life Project published in Who’s Not Online that 57% of those not online have no intention of going online. The research Firm Ipsos-Reid found a similar statistic internationally:

33% of those people have chosen to not go online. Among the biggest reasons were lack of need (40%); no computer (33%); no interest (25%); lack of knowledge for use (25%); and general cost involved (16%).

U.S. Perspective
In fall of 2000, the U.S. Department of Commerce found that

51% of all U.S. homes had a computer; 41.5% of all U.S. homes had Internet access
White (46.1%) and Asian American & Pacific Islander (56.8%) households continued to have Internet access at levels more than double those of Black (23.5%) and Hispanic (23.6%) households.
86.3% of households earning $75,000 and above per year had Internet access compared to 12.7% of households earning less than $15,000 per year.
Nearly 65% of college graduates have home Internet access; only 11.7% of households headed by persons with less than a high school education have Internet access.

Rural areas, though still lagging behind urban areas, had surpassed inner-cities in Internet availability and use:

  • Urban 42.3
  • Rural 38.9
  • Central City 37.7
Of those who use the Internet outside the home, 62.7% do so at work, 18.9% at K-12 schools, 8.3% in other school settings, 9.6% at libraries, .5% at Community Centers, and 13.8% use someone else’s computer.

(Source: Falling Through the Net, 2000)

The 2000 U.S. Census found:

63% of homes with residents aged 18-49 used the Internet compared to 37% of households with residents aged 50 or older.
Women have surpassed men in Internet access and use. (51% to 49%, respectively.)

Resources:
Why Aren’t More People Online – Ipsos-Reid (June 2001) Chart: http://www.ipsosreid.com/media/content/pdf/mr010515_1t.pdf

Neilsen/Netratings
http://www.netratings.com

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Digital Divide Web site
http://www.digitaldivide.gov

Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion, U.S. Department of Commerce, October 2000
http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/fttn00/contents00.html

Who's Not Online, Pew Internet & American Life Project
http://www.pewinternet.org/reports/toc.asp?Report=21

The Digital Divide Network
http://www.digitaldividenetwork.org

Bridges.org
http://bridges.org

NOTE:
The statistics drawn from Falling Through The Net: Toward Digital Inclusion published by the NTIA in Fall 2000, comprise the best set of statistics by which to measure changes in computer ownership and Internet use. While the data is dated, it provides a strong basis on which to assess expansion and uptake of the Internet along specific categories. For more current tallies, please refer to the various companies measuring Internet activity as listed above.