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Digital Equity Study reveals Seattle residents are more connected than ever

2018 Technology Access and Adoption Study shows nearly 95% of Seattle households are connected but there’s room for improvement in digital equity

As part of the City of Seattle’s ongoing work to reduce the digital equity divide, the City released results of the 2018 Technology Access and Adoption Study [PDF]. Results indicate Seattle residents are more connected than ever, with 95% of households reporting internet access in the place where they live – an increase of 10% since 2014, the last time this survey was conducted. While there are still barriers that exist to many households, the survey shows progress in the City’s goal to improve digital equity in Seattle households.

“In Seattle, we know that access to fast, reliable internet is an equity issue. Our city is more connected than ever before – but we still have a lot of work to do to fill the gaps. More and more, digital access and digital skills are prerequisites to gaining access to jobs and opportunity,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Thanks to the Technology Access and Adoption Study, we know our low-income and insecurely-housed communities are experiencing lower levels of connectedness – and their digital skill levels are suffering as a result. This study will help us as we work to improve digital access and equity for all of Seattle’s residents.”

The Technology Access and Adoption study is used to determine residents’ level of access to the internet and other digital technologies. The study has been conducted five times since the year 2000. This year, over 20,000 randomly selected residents were asked to participate by responding to the survey via mail, phone, or online. A total of 4,315 surveys were collected from May 23 to June 25, 2018, representing 4,315 Seattle households and 10,358 Seattle residents.

“It is vital for us to conduct a Digital Equity Study every few years to truly understand the pulse of the city’s digital access,” said Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell. “The study reflects the policy and community investments made to improve equity and opportunity to those who need it the most. While the data presented is very positive, one area of concern requiring our utmost attention is closing the digital access gap for the almost 25% of those living in poverty still without internet access.”

Highlights from the study include:

  • 21% of households with incomes under $25,000 do not have internet access where they live.
  • Households with multiple adults or households with children are more likely to have faster internet connections than single occupant households.
  • While most residents use the internet a great deal, almost one out of four cite reasons for not using it more often including cost, speed, and confusing service plans.
  • City residents, regardless of age, are concerned about the security of their personal information, how their data is used, and protection from viruses.

“The data demonstrates a positive trend on digital access amongst the City of Seattle residents. We will continue to analyze this data as we build our plan to best serve the community with innovative technology in the future,” said Acting Chief Technology Officer Saad Bashir. “The data and demographics will serve as a blueprint for our approach and I’m looking forward to getting to work on this crucial issue of our time.”

The survey shows a direct correlation between income and online activity. The greater the income, the more online activities are done on a regular basis. Ethnic minorities and non-English speakers, as well as those living with a disability, are more likely to rely on others to help them access and use the internet.

“Learning to use the internet and technology is the same as learning to read in the beginning of last century. It isn’t vital to survive, but it is necessary to move up the socioeconomic ladder. Learning to read is free. The internet should remain as close to free as possible,” said one Seattle resident in the study.

Data from the survey is presented in various forms including an interactive data dashboard that can adapt to show results by race, zip code, council district, language, and income among other variables. The dashboard, along with the full report, can also be found at The City of Seattle worked with both Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Housing Authority to reach a wide range of residents. The study was conducted in both English and Spanish.