Older Nebraskans' Internet Service Up But Still Lower Than Other Demographic Groups

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July 7, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nearly 70 percent of older Nebraskans have Internet service in their homes – higher than the national average but still lower than other demographic groups, according to a recent survey.

The survey, conducted for the Nebraska Broadband Initiative, is part of efforts to target shortfalls in the state's Internet availability.

Many surveys show Americans aged 65 and older lag behind younger people in their use of the Internet. In Nebraska, the survey found, 69 percent of older people had Internet service, with 59 percent having broadband service available. That compares to a national survey by the Pew Research Center than found 59 percent of seniors are Internet users and only 47 percent have high-speed broadband available in their homes.

In Nebraska, the survey found, 86 percent of Nebraska households have Internet access, and 82 percent have broadband service, up from 81 percent and 76 percent, respectively, since 2010.

 "Senior Nebraskans are adopting technology faster than their counterparts nationwide; however, they still lag behind younger Nebraskans in their adoption of technology," the survey noted.

Older Nebraskans also are less likely to have mobile devices in their households. Although 55 percent of older Nebraskans have a regular cell phone, fewer than one-quarter have either a smartphone (23 percent) or tablet computer (23 percent). In addition, just over one-third of older Nebraskans – 37 percent – have a laptop computer.

Older Nebraskans living in metropolitan areas are more likely than older Nebraskans living in nonmetropolitan regions to be using the Internet and to have broadband service. Eighty-three percent of seniors living in Lancaster County have broadband Internet service at home. In comparison, only 46 percent of seniors living in the South Central region have broadband service at home.

At least three-quarters of older Nebraskans use the Internet for email (99 percent), to do research or search for information (95 percent), to look for health information (86 percent), to get news/weather information (83 percent), and to buy a product online (76 percent). Fifty-eight percent of older Nebraskans use the Internet for online banking or bill pay, 57 percent for social network and 54 percent to watch a video. Older Nebraskans lag behind younger Nebraskans in using most of these Internet applications.

When asked specifically about online shopping behaviors, the majority of older Nebraskans are using the Internet to do the following: research/browse products (73 percent), purchase a product (69 percent), and compare prices (57 percent). Many are also finding/researching information on local businesses (46 percent), finding coupons or special deals (43 percent), and finding online or non-local businesses (41 percent). Fewer older Nebraskans are rating products or services using an online rating system (22 percent).

"While older Nebraskans are active users of the Internet, there are still opportunities for growth," the report said.

"As our population ages, we want to ensure older Nebraskans are comfortable with this technology so they remain 'plugged in' to a society that increasingly shares information online," said Nebraska Public Service Commission Chairman Frank Landis.

 At least one-third of older Nebraskans indicated they were somewhat or very interested in the following courses: using the Internet (45 percent), basic computer use (41 percent), e-mail use (37 percent), and social media (33 percent).

Nebraskans were surveyed about their computer and Internet usage, community technology resources and technology training needs through a mail survey conducted in January and February 2014 by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Agricultural Economics.  The 14-page survey was mailed to approximately 8,000 households (8,024 deliverable households out of the 9,000 initial list). A 35 percent response rate was achieved (2,798 responses).

The entire study can be found at http://broadband.nebraska.gov.

The survey was conducted by the Nebraska Broadband Initiative, a partnership of state and University of Nebraska entities.

The Nebraska Broadband Initiative is a partnership of the Nebraska Public Service Commission, the University of Nebraska, Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Nebraska Information Technology Commission and the AIM Institute.

Becky Vogt
Manager of Survey Research

Dan Moser
IANR News Service

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