By Genaro C. Armas
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, February 5, 2002; 6:47 PM
WASHINGTON –– More than half of all Americans use the Internet, with more than 2 million people going online for the first time each month.
And nine out of 10 school-age children now have access to computers either at home or at school, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday.
“Today’s children are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and innovators,” Commerce Secretary Don Evans said. “That Internet usage is so prominent among them promises to bring vitality and growth to our economy.”
The report came as critics assailed the Bush administration for slashing funding in its 2003 budget proposal for programs designed to narrow the so-called “digital divide,” disparities in computer and Internet use along racial and income lines.
The 96-page report said that the growing availability of computers at workplaces and schools helped open up the Internet “across all demographic groups and geographic regions.”
Fifty-four percent of Americans used the Internet in September 2001, or 143 million people, the report said. That was up from 33 percent three years earlier.
“They are right that the numbers have gotten better in some ways, but when you have 140 million people not connected to the Internet, how do you ignore that?” asked Larry Irving, a former Clinton administration Commerce official who worked on similar reports.
In addition, more than half of all households now have an Internet subscription from home, up from one-quarter of all households in Dec. 1998.
“Could I live without a computer? Yeah, but I think it would be very tough,” said Michael King, a New York City lawyer, as he checked his e-mail. “Knowing how to use a computer and the Internet is a necessary skill in this day and age.”
Doing research is the top reason that adults log on, but more Internet users are also going online to accomplish everyday activities like banking and shopping, said Susannah Fox, director of research at the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
The report said that:
–45 percent of the population now uses e-mail, up from 35 percent in 2000.
–36 percent use the Internet to search for product and service information, up from 26 percent.
–39 percent of Internet users are making online purchases and 35 percent of individuals are searching for health information.