A new study by the City of Seattle shows that more residents have access to internet and technology than five years ago, but some groups still face significant barriers and challenges. The study, based on a survey and focus groups of over 4,600 residents, reveals the trends and gaps in tech access and adoption, and the needs and preferences of the residents. The study also provides recommendations and strategies for improving digital equity and inclusion in Seattle.
The Tech Access and Adoption Study is a comprehensive research project conducted by the Seattle Information Technology Department, as part of the City’s Digital Equity program. The study, which is done every five years, aims to understand the current state and future direction of tech access and adoption in Seattle, and to inform and guide the City and community digital equity initiatives and policies.
The study is important because tech access and adoption are essential for the well-being and success of the residents and the city, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased the reliance and demand for online services and activities, such as education, work, health, entertainment, and civic participation.
The study is also important because tech access and adoption are not equally distributed and experienced among the residents and the city, and there are persistent and emerging disparities and challenges that need to be addressed and overcome.
Tech Access and Adoption Study: What It Found and What It Means
The study, which was conducted in eight languages, found that tech access and adoption in Seattle have increased from 2018, the date of the last study, but there are still significant gaps and needs among some groups and areas. The study also found that tech access and adoption are influenced by various factors, such as income, education, age, race, ethnicity, language, disability, and location. The study also found that tech access and adoption are related to various outcomes, such as satisfaction, confidence, skills, and uses.
Some of the key findings and implications of the study include:
- Home internet access in Seattle has increased from 95% to 98% from 2018, but an estimated 8,123 households within the city cannot access the internet at home. Those who do not speak English as their main language are four times more likely not to have internet access at home. The main reasons for not having internet access at home are the cost, the lack of need or interest, and the lack of devices or skills.
- One in 20 households have fewer than one internet device per household member. Over half (54%) are interested in training on how to protect yourself and your data online. One in six Native households dealt with internet outages of a month or more. These findings indicate that the quality, reliability, and security of internet access and devices are important issues for the residents, and that there is a demand for more digital literacy and safety education and support.
- 71% have made a health appointment online, but lower income residents use telehealth less. This finding suggests that online health services are widely used and valued by the residents, but there are barriers and disparities in accessing and utilizing telehealth, especially for the low-income residents, who may face challenges such as affordability, availability, and accessibility of internet and devices, as well as privacy and trust concerns.
- Nearly 44,000 households have significant needs for improvement in access, devices, uses and skills using a new digital connectedness index. This index, which is a composite measure of the level of tech access and adoption, shows that there are still many residents who are digitally disconnected or disadvantaged, and who need more resources and assistance to improve their tech access and adoption.
- 11% of BIPOC households do not have internet access both at home and on-the-go. This finding indicates that there are racial and ethnic disparities in tech access and adoption, and that the BIPOC residents are more likely to be excluded or marginalized from the digital opportunities and benefits.
Tech Access and Adoption Study: What It Recommends and What It Does
The study provides several recommendations and strategies for improving digital equity and inclusion in Seattle, based on the findings and the input of the residents. The recommendations and strategies are organized into four categories: access, devices, skills, and uses. Some of the recommendations and strategies include:
- Expanding and promoting the availability and affordability of internet service and devices, especially for the low-income, non-English speaking, and Native residents, and for the areas with low internet penetration and adoption.
- Providing and supporting the digital literacy and safety education and training, especially for the older, less educated, and disabled residents, and for the residents who are interested in learning more about how to protect themselves and their data online.
- Enhancing and diversifying the online services and content, especially for the health, education, and civic participation domains, and for the residents who have different needs and preferences for online services and content.
- Engaging and empowering the residents and the community, especially the BIPOC, immigrant, and refugee residents, and the residents who face multiple barriers and challenges in tech access and adoption, and involving them in the design and delivery of the digital equity programs and policies.
The study also highlights the actions and initiatives that the City and the community have taken and will take to implement the recommendations and strategies, and to improve the digital equity and inclusion in Seattle. Some of the actions and initiatives include:
- Launching and expanding the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides low-cost internet service and devices to the eligible low-income residents, and increasing the awareness and enrollment of the program among the residents and the community.
- Partnering and collaborating with the Native groups to gather the first-ever urban Native digital equity snapshot, which provides valuable data and insights on the tech access and adoption of the Native residents, and developing and supporting the culturally appropriate and responsive digital equity solutions for the Native residents and community.
- Initiating and continuing the open, competitive solicitation process for the state’s inventory tracking system throughout 2024, which will determine the future direction and provider of the inventory tracking system, and engaging and consulting with the stakeholders and the public on the process and the outcome.
- Supporting and funding the community-based organizations and projects that deliver the digital equity services and programs to the residents and the community, such as the Technology Matching Fund, the Community Technology Advisory Board, and the Digital Bridge Program.
For more information on the Tech Access and Adoption Study and the Digital Equity program, visit geekwire.com.