‘Digital divide’ survey points to digital equity opportunities

More than 3,000 people participated and the results are in on a survey the City of Minneapolis conducted in January to understand how Minneapolis residents use computers, mobile devices and the Internet to better their daily lives. The City of Minneapolis conducts this annual survey to inform its work around bridging the “digital divide.”

This is the third year of the survey, and since 2012, residents have increasingly accessed the Internet using smart phones and tablets, yet access varies across the 11 Minneapolis communities and socio-economic factors.  While 85 percent of Minneapolis residents surveyed have computers with Internet access at home (an increase from 82 percent in 2012), residents who identified as lower-income, African-American, older and retired, unemployed or disabled were less likely to own a device with Internet access. 

Digital equity is a component of equity overall in Minneapolis

The City’s Information Technology vision includes a component for addressing the “digital divide” in Minneapolis - which is the gap between individuals and groups in their access to information and communication technologies, and their use and knowledge of these technologies.

The City of Minneapolis is taking a leadership role to help community members, the private sector, and groups interested in digital inclusion to come together to include digital equity as part of the racial equity solutions in Minneapolis. As government, education, health care providers and businesses are using technology to more and more to connect with people online, it’s important to ensure that all individuals can participate in the benefits of the digital society. Technology is a critical tool for success in employment, education, economic and business development, health, safety and community engagement. 

About 12,300 households received the survey in the mail from National Research Center, Inc., an independent research firm that conducted the survey. Households were selected at random throughout the entire city, with the goal of reaching a diverse cross-section of residents.

Survey summary

Overall, Minneapolis residents reported that access to computers and the Internet was essential, and most households had Internet-capable computers and cell phones and used them regularly to go online. Survey results also show that ownership of devices with Internet access continued to increase in 2014.

Eighty-five percent of Minneapolis residents have computers with Internet access at home. What’s more, some areas of the City where computer ownership and access to the Internet at home were lower than other parts of the City saw some improvement compared to 2012 survey results.  Seventy-one percent of Phillips residents and 69 percent of Near North reported having a computer with Internet access at home in 2014 compared to 57 percent and 65 percent, respectively, in 2012. Age, income and race are also key factors in resident’s access and use of technology.  Residents age 55 and older and those with household income less than $25,000 are least likely to use computers and the Internet.  Sixty-six percent of African American respondents have a computer with Internet at home, compared to 90 percent of white respondents. 

More mobile access is the biggest change between 2012 and 2014

While ownership of Internet-enabled computers varied greatly across the City, ownership of internet-enabled mobile phones is higher in 2014 – even among those households least likely to own a computer.

Digital literacy and online activities

Beyond having access to technology, people need to understand how to use it to effectively achieve their educational, economic, civic and social goals. City residents overall have a high comfort level when using technology for basic activities, however there are opportunities to improve skills in the areas of searching and applying for jobs online, cyber security, and using the Internet for community resources and civic engagement. The survey shows 93 percent are either very comfortable or somewhat comfortable using a computer or laptop; 93 percent are either very comfortable or somewhat comfortable accessing the Internet; and 91 percent very comfortable or somewhat comfortable using email. 

Results from the survey show 55 percent of respondents said they are very comfortable, and 19 percent somewhat comfortable finding and applying for jobs online, although 36 percent of unemployed respondents looking for work don’t have a computer with Internet at home. Survey results also show that 74 percent of respondents are very comfortable or somewhat comfortable using the Internet to access tutorials or educational programs. Friends and family are also a big resource for residents seeking computer and Internet advice.

Help the community bridge the digital divide

City leaders and staff have scheduled the following community meetings with residents, businesses, community groups, and many other stakeholders to share the survey results and recommendations about how to overcome the digital divide in Minneapolis. 

Thursday, May 29, 6 – 7 p.m.
East Phillips Park-Cultural and Community Center
2307 17th Ave S

Tuesday, June 17, 5:30 – 7 p.m.
North Regional Library
1315 Lowry Ave. N

To request a presentation and discussion about digital equity in Minneapolis and the Community Technology Survey results, contact the City’s IT Department at 612-673-2026

For more ways to get involved, see the City’s Digital Inclusion website at www.minneapolismn.gov/it/inclusion.

Published May 7, 2014