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Digitally Literate & Device Used

Friday, August 31, 2018

84% of Americans Are Digitally Literate

The 84% majority of Americans are digitally literate, according to a National Center for Education Statistics report of the results of a survey of Americans aged 16 to 65. Only 16% of the population is not digitally literate. The survey, entitled The International Assessment of Adult Competencies, was sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It assessed the computer skills of a nationally representative sample of Americans, determining how many were able to use computers “to solve real-world problems such as purchasing goods or services, finding health information, and managing personal information and business finances.”

The United States was just one of the 19 countries whose computer skills were assessed by the OECD. With a digital literacy rate of 84%, the U.S. beat the 19-country average of 77%. Among the countries, the Netherlands had the largest percentage of digitally literate (89%) and Poland had the smallest (50%). The U.S. ranks lower in digital literacy than Scandinavian countries, about the same as Canada, England, and Germany, and higher than Australia, Austria, Korea, or Japan.

Seventy-four percent of Americans aged 18 to 65 use a computer at work, the survey found, and 81% use a computer in everyday life. Of course, digital literacy varies by demographic characteristic. Here are some of the biggest differences...

Education: Fully 95% of 18-to-65-year-olds with an associate's degree or more education are digitally literate versus 83% of high school graduates and 59% of high school dropouts.

Age: The youngest adults are the most literate. Fully 92% of 16-to-24-year-olds are digitally literate. The figure falls with age to a low of 72% among 55-to-65-year-olds.

Race and Hispanic origin: Only 65% of Hispanics are digitally literate. The figure is 78% among Blacks and 89% among non-Hispanic Whites. Asians were not identified separately but included in an “other” category along with American Indians and the multiracial. The digital literacy rate of the “other” group was 87%. 

Only 30% Use Desktop Computers

Fully 78% of Americans aged three or older used the Internet as of November 2017, according to the latest government survey of computer and internet use – a supplement to the Current Population Survey, sponsored by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The survey reveals ongoing changes in how we access the Internet.

Desktop computers and broadband connections were once the primary way we went online. That’s no longer the case. Today, the number of households connected to the Internet through mobile data plans (88.9 million) surpasses the number connected to the Internet through wired broadband service (85.3 million). The use of desktop computers has fallen behind smartphones, laptops, and even tablet computers.

Percent using computing device in 2017 (and 2011)
64% use a smartphone (43%)
46% use a laptop (43%)
34% use a smart TV (14%)
32% use a tablet (6%)
30% use a desktop computer (45%)
8% use a wearable device (NA)

As the variety of computer devices has grown over the years, more Americans are using multiple devices. In 2017, 62% of Americans reported using at least two different types of computing devices, up from 52% in 2013. The percentage who used three or more devices climbed from 32 to 42% during those years.

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