August 3, 2009 By Blake Harris
Nearly 40 percent of Chicago residents, especially Latinos and those aged 67 or more, have limited or no access to the Internet, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
But not because of a lack of interest in going online, say the researchers. Rather, the main reason given is the cost.
"This study is the first in the country to show how neighborhoods in a city differ in use of technology and barriers to use of technology," said Karen Mossberger in a prepared statement.
Mossberger, an associate professor of public administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was co-author of the report, entitled "Digital Excellence in Chicago: A City-Wide View," along with researchers at the University of Iowa.
The study is based on a telephone survey and analysis commissioned by the city of Chicago and it tracked Internet use in each of the city's 77 communities. This found that 25 percent of all Chicagoans do not use the Internet at all, while about 15 percent have only limited access.
"The data define the relevant gaps in technology use, so they provide a baseline for targeted efforts to bridge the digital divide in Chicago," Mossberger added.
Among the findings:
-Disparities between African Americans and whites were small in regard to overall use, but fewer African Americans have home access.
-Latinos lag behind both African Americans and whites in most aspects of Internet use. Only 39 percent of Spanish-speaking Latinos were Internet users, compared to 79 percent of English-speaking respondents.
-Both African-Americans and Latinos without Internet access at home are more likely than whites to cite costs as the main reason for not being online, rather than a lack of interest.
-One-third of the respondents reported using the Internet at public libraries. Those most likely to use the Internet at a library or community center are younger, better educated, low-income or African American.
Mossberger said as more information and services move online, the costs increase for those residents who are excluded, because the Internet has become "a critical resource for work, information, civic engagement, access to government services and health."
The full report is posted at http://egov.cityofchicago.org/city/webportal/home.do
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.