Blog

Utilizing Federal Data to Measure the Digital Divide

Mon, June 29, 2020

Data is crucial to understanding where broadband connectivity gaps exist and what barriers there are to Internet adoption. It also helps to develop effective broadband policies and programs. June’s BroadbandUSA webinar, “Utilizing Federal Data to Measure the Digital Divide,” provided an overview of federal datasets that are publically available to help communities and policymakers understand the digital divide at the local level.

For 25 years, NTIA has been collecting data on computer and Internet use with its Internet Use Survey in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau. NTIA’s Rafi Goldberg explained that survey respondents include households in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This survey, a supplement to Census’s Current Population Survey, asks households over 50 questions on topics including location, online activity, reasons for non-use, and devices used to access the Internet. NTIA publishes this data on its Data Central page to offer a nuanced understanding of gaps in Internet adoption and use.

NTIA showcased its Data Explorer tool that allows users to take a deeper dive into the Internet use data. Users can visually display the data by demographic features. Users can also download raw datasets from the Research Center to perform other analytics or combine them with other datasets for analysis.

Census’s American Community Survey (ACS) was also highlighted in the webinar. The ACS is the nation’s most current, accessible and reliable data source for information on American population, explained Tyson Weister, a Program Analyst at the U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Enterprise Dissemination. The ACS has two key annual data releases: one-year and five-year estimates. The ACS asks questions on Internet subscriptions and computer and smartphone use starting in 2013. The data includes types of broadband technologies that households use to connect to the Internet and the types of computers and Internet devices they own. Policymakers looking to use this data can go to data.census.gov.

BroadbandUSA’s technical assistance team is available to help communities turn data into action. Our technical assistance team can help with broadband infrastructure and digital inclusion projects on topics including technology planning, sustainability, funding, and program and business model evaluation.

BroadbandUSA hosts monthly webinars on a variety of broadband topics including digital inclusion. BroadbandUSA has an archive of its webinars on our website. Follow us on Twitter @NTIAgov to receive updates on NTIA and BroadbandUSA’s work.