Posted by Lori Ayre on June 10, 2004

There seems to be a crevice in the digital divide. The Pew Internet and American Life Project has issued two reports that suggest there are haves, have-nots and also have-a-lots.

In his 4/19/04 report Ed: broken link removed 2011 "55% of Adult Internet Users Have Broadband at Home or Work", John Horrigan reports 68 million adult Americans have broadband either at home or work. 48 million have broadband connections at home, an increase of 60% since March 2003.

In Ed: broken link removed 2011 "Use of the Internet in places other than home or work: A PIP Data Memo (3/3/04)", Paul Harwood and Lee Rainie report that 23% of adult users now use the Internet from a place other than home or work and that there are two groups of these multi-locational types:

  • those that go online wherever they are -- these are the 'have-a-lots'
  • those who rely on friends or the library for their Internet access -- these are the 'haves'

The 'have-a-lots' go online wherever they are. They are among the 60% of Amercians with broadband connections at home, work and/or school. They are Internet savvy. They are probably under the age of 30. The Internet has become part of their lives. They are sophisticated and weathy enough to exploit all aspects of the Internet from shopping to entertainment to news to filing legal documents to getting their masters degree online.

The 'haves' might rely on friends or the library for high-speed access and are more likely to be relatively poor without high levels of education. The study finds that 3% of the US population fit this profile. They tend to earn under $30,000 and live in rural areas. The Internet is not a way of lifefor these users. My guess is these users use the Internet for simple browsing and email but probably aren't downloading mp3 files, registering their car at the DMV site, viewing webcasts or attending school via distance education.

And that's just one side of the divide. On the other side are the people with no Internet access at home, work or otherwise.

How do the 'have-nots' get their information today? As a 'have-a-lot', it's hard to even imagine how I'd find a good restaurant, pay my bills, continue my education and remain employed without the Internet. I'm one of those pitiful people who loses touch with friends simply because the friend has no email address.

But isn't it Interesting that the 'haves', 'have-nots' as well as the 'have-a-lots' all need our libraries. The 'have-nots' rely on the library for the print version of information the rest of us have become accustomed to acquiring electronically. The 'haves' rely on the libraries for high-speed access (among other things). And the 'have-a-lots' rely on the libraries as just one more access point to the Internet as they frenetically move around the world (oh and their kids probably actually check out physical books too).

The library really is the center of the Universe.