Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The Pew Research Center continues to provide insights on our evolving relationship with the web in a recent study on how the different generations are using the web [pdf].

Seventy-nine percent of American adults go online. What about the other 21%? Their reasons for their offline status are below:

© Pew Research Center, 2010

Not surprisingly, younger generations continue to be prominent Internet users: adults ages 45 and younger make up 49% of the total adult population yet represent about 56% of online users. Internet use drops off significantly for adults over the age of 65. It's hard to tell what percentage of this group is represented in the 21% above. 

What is surprising is that the primary reason given for being offline is "Just not interested" with "Too old to learn" and lack of access to resources falling far behind. Who makes up the 21%? They may just be the last of the most productive people on the planet.


  1. There appears to be a great deal of overlap in those reasons, which is understandable to reduce "other" answers. Breaking down the list, though, into a more general "Not Interested", "Unable" and "Other" I get 52% not interested for one reason or another, 41% percent unable to get online, and 6% "Other". That leaves the missing 1% which is because anthropologists no longer understand decimal points since anthropology is no longer a science. ;-)

    Seriously, though, that means that 41% of the people who aren't online are unable to get online. I'm guessing this is primarily due to financial restrictions and inability to get easy access to free public terminals.

    At what point should we consider Internet access to be as important as having affordable access to basic phone and mail services? Should it be similar to utilities, like electric and gas services, where there are programs to help people on modest fixed incomes cope with increasing or variable costs?

    Maybe we need a $100 laptop program for more than just children in third world countries.

  2. Ken, thanks for the analysis. (As a "fluff headed" cultural person, I appreciate it!) The double digital divide in terms of access to resources is something that concerns me greatly. Each subsequent generation is increasingly more technologically-dependent and savvy than the one previous. This will establish a clear bias in terms of access to services and information. I'm a big believer that we need to be educating students to use the tools that will play a predominant role in their lives in the years to come. That means actively showing them how to use that technology.

    But of course, in order to use that technology, they need access to it. So it starts with the laptops possibly, but mobile phones also have potential that could be leveraged in these situations. I definitely think it's time we started thinking about these sorts of issues more seriously.