On Friday, September 15, 2017, the Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center (ASC3) and Samantha Schartman-Cycyk, Research Director for the Connect Your Community Institute jointly released the report: Adoption Persistence: A longitudinal study of the digital inclusion impact of the Connect Your Community Project. Generously supported through a grant from the Cleveland Foundation, the report stands as the first-ever longitudinal impact study of a digital inclusion effort.
The Connect Your Community Project was a $19 million-dollar federal stimulus grant project funded through NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) that served to train, equip and connect over 33,000 participants nationally (5,500 in the Cleveland area alone). In 2012, the project leadership team (Bill Callahan and Samantha Schartman) conducted a program impact study of project participants. This newly released report describes the findings of the recent follow-up survey which re-contacted 429 Cleveland-based residents/past project participants who had also responded to the 2012 survey.
In 2012, 22% of program participants reported not having home internet access at the time of the survey with 54% of these citing cost as the reason. Today, five years since the original survey, 24% of respondents report to be without home internet connectivity only this time 65% cite cost as the primary barrier to home connectivity; an 11% increase over the 2012 report.
Only 17% of respondents were aware of data caps on their service. Of these, 51% report having an unlimited internet plan, while the rest report data caps as low as 20gb or less per month.
According to the report, these findings not only prove that high-touch community-based digital literacy programs are successful in closing the digital divide, but that the impact of such projects continues even after they are over. These findings will prove useful insights for any digital inclusion program manager who is interested in learning of additional ways to measure community impact, stretch resources, and grow participation and engagement.
Some additional highlights from the report:
- 76% of all respondents maintained their home internet subscription.
- 65% of those without a home internet connection say cost is the primary reason for them not maintaining their service. 18% say it is their lack of a computer.
- Only 10% of respondents report a lack of interest or need for home internet, preferring to rely on community resources.
- 43% of connected respondents use patient health record (PHRs) portals to manage their health online.
- 69% of connected and 60% of unconnected respondents report that they use a computer for their job.
- 82% report that their participation in the Connect Your Community project resulted in a positive workforce-related impact.
- Half of the population (50.47%) said that they shared what they learned in the CYC project with others outside of the community centers; in their own personal networks.
NDIA applauds this research and encourages additional longitudinal studies of broadband adoption programs.