W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 17, 2000 -- Americans’ access to computers and the Internet has grown dramatically over the past 20 months, a new government report says, with computers now in more than half of all households.
The share of households with computers rose from 42.1 percent inDecember 1998 to 51 percent in August of this year—a total of53.7 million households, the Commerce Department found in itslatest survey of computer usage.
The number of households with Internet access also soared,hitting 41.5 percent in August, up from just 26.2 percent in theprevious 1999 survey.
The Digital Divide
But as in past surveys, the government found a gap with whitesand people living in cities much more likely to have computers andInternet access than minorities and those living in rural areas.
The report, released Monday, found that 23.5 percent of blackhouseholds had Internet access in August. While this was up from11.2 percent in the 1999 survey, it still lagged behind the ratefor white households of 46.1 percent.
The percentage of Hispanic households with Internet access stoodat 23.6 percent in August while Asian Americans and PacificIslanders continued to have the largest Internet penetration at56.8 percent.
The report, “Falling through the Net: Toward DigitalInclusion,” was released by Commerce Secretary Norman Y. Mineta ashe began a West Coast “digital divide” tour aimed at highlightingefforts to close the gap in computer and Internet use.
“Each year being connected becomes more critical to economicand educational advancement and to community participation,”Mineta said. “That’s why it is so important that we move asquickly as we can toward digital inclusion.”
The Commerce Department report showed that computer ownershiphas been rising steadily, going from 8.2 percent of households in1984 to the current 51 percent. Internet access in homes has risenfrom 18.6 percent in 1998 to 26.2 percent in 1999 and 41.5 percentin the August survey.
Among the report’s other findings:
The disparity between men and women in their use of theInternet has largely disappeared with 44.6 percent of men and 44.2percent of women now using the Internet.
Sending messages remains the most popular use for the Internetwith 79.9 percent of Internet users reporting that they use e-mail.Online shopping and paying bills showed the fastest growth. By state, Utah ranked No. 1 in computer ownership with 66.1percent of households owning a computer followed by Alaska at 64.8percent of households. States with the lowest percentage ofcomputer homes were Mississippi at 37.2 percent and Arkansas at37.3 percent.