WASHINGTON - Platforms for jobs, government and other services are increasingly moving online, but 30 percent of Americans do not have an Internet connection to access to those resources, a new Census Bureau report says.
The number in Arizona mirrored the nation, with just over 31 percent of state residents having no Net connectivity in 2011, the year profiled in the report.
"It may be surprising to some people, because a lot of people think everyone has a computer, everyone has Internet at home, everyone knows how, and that's not true," said Annette Vigil, manager of South Mountain Community Library in Phoenix.
The lack of access is particularly common for seniors, with about 54 percent of Americans 65 and older having no Internet access. That makes computers and computer classes at libraries and senior centers "really popular," said Vigil, whose library offers free computer classes in English and Spanish every week.
In the Tucson area, the Pima Public Library system offers many such classes, too, with some listed Fridays in the Business Calendar in the Star.
"When seniors or other people who don't use the Internet very much need to go online, to access government forms that are now online-only, they go to libraries for help," said Kathryn Zickuhr, an analyst from the Pew Research Center, which has reported on the digital divide.
The census survey described a "connectivity continuum" that ranged from people with no computer at home and no Net access up to those who have multiple devices with which to access the Internet.
Nationally, 15.9 percent of people had no home computer and another 14.4 percent had a computer but no Internet access in 2011, the report said. In Arizona, the numbers were 16.2 percent and 15.4 percent, respectively.
On the other end of the spectrum, 37.3 percent of Americans were "highly connected," with access from home and elsewhere. In Arizona, 36.5 percent of residents fell in that category.
Men and women were about even in terms of access, while Asians and whites had higher levels of connectivity than blacks and Hispanics.
Greta Byrum, an analyst from the Open Technology Institute at New America Foundation, said it is essential that "people from all walks of life have access to the Internet and digital resources."
"This should be a leading policy priority and a focus of investment," Byrum said.
BY the numbers
Americans without a home computer in 2011
Arizonans without a home computer in 2011
Americans with a home computer but no Internet service in 2011
Arizonans with a home computer but no Internet service in 2011
Americans who are considered "highly connected"
Arizonans who are considered "highly connected"