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Survey Finds Austin's Digital Divide Shrinking But Mistrust Of Internet Persists

Julia Reihs/KUT
The hands of Jan Morgan, who was teaching tech classes to senior adults at Lakeside Apartments in the fall of 2018. The program, called Tech Starters, is designed to help residents learn to use technology such as smart phones and computers.

A gap in internet access for Austin residents has shrunk, but a sense of mistrust over the internet’s privacy and security persists among those without access, according to a recent study by the City of Austin and the University of Texas’ Moody College of Communications.


The Digital Inclusion in Austin report surveyed almost 1,000 residents who were selected at random. The poll found 95% of respondents had a home internet connection, which is higher than the 92% rate reported in 2014. Both rates far surpassed the national average of 65%. 


“It’s a general indication that more information was needed as far as being able to facilitate an understanding on how to navigate the internet in a safe and prudent manner,” John Speirs with the city's Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs Department said.


The survey also found that there was less access to the internet in the eastern portion of the city, which includes more residents with lower incomes.


“Austin’s digital divide quite often does align with the other divides,” Speirs said. 


Respondents without an internet connection at home were less likely to use free public WiFi than those with a connection at home. Almost 80% of those without a home connection said they needed help navigating the internet. 


“It may be surprising to some residents that that digital divide still exists, but it is our hope that we will continue to address the core need there, so that we provide those resources to residents who may need it the most,” Speirs said.  

DaLyah Jones is a former assistant producer for All Things Considered and evening host. She is also co-host of the Two & Fro podcast.
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