San Francisco's Digital Divide (File No. 030077)

OLA #002-03

LEGISLATIVE ANALYST REPORT

TO: Honorable Members of the Board of Supervisors

FROM: Gabe Cabrera, Office of the Legislative Analyst (OLA)

DATE: January 22, 2004

SUBJECT: San Francisco's Digital Divide (File No. 030077)

Summary of Requested Action

Motion (introduced by Supervisor Daly) requesting the OLA update File No. 011590 (dated November 29, 2001) regarding the digital divide with specific emphasis on the City and County of San Francisco's progress in addressing the digital divide.

Executive Summary

The term "digital divide" generally refers to the separation between those who have access to computers, the Internet and other technologies and those who do not. The following summarizes the key findings of various governmental and non-governmental studies regarding the digital divide.

Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Survey - September 1999 through January 2001

More than three fourths of all Californians (76%) say they use computers, and more than half (65%) say they use the Internet.

Asians lead other racial/ethnic groups in the State in computer (91%) and Internet (83%) use. Latinos are much less likely than other racial/ethnic groups to use computers (65%) and the Internet (47%).

Residents in the San Francisco Bay Area are more likely to use computers (82%) and the Internet (73%) than other Californians.

California Technology Assistance Project (CTAP) - June 2000

The number of K-12 students to computers in San Francisco (about 6:1) is smaller than the statewide average (about 7:1).

Schools in San Francisco are slightly more connected to the Internet (81%) than the statewide average (80%).

Controller's Office - 2002 Citizen Survey

More than three fourths (76%) of all San Franciscans say they have access to the Internet at home, work or other place.

Respondents in Districts 7 and 8 are more likely than other San Franciscans to say they have Internet access (both at 85%). Districts 3, 10 and 11 respondents reported the smallest percentages of Internet access in the City (62%, 69% and 66% respectively).

San Francisco's Public Libraries and Schools

Apart from these published studies, the OLA analyzed the extent of the digital divide in San Francisco's libraries and schools. The following summarizes our findings.

Of the Public Library's 470 computers, 191 are located at the Main Library and 279 are dispersed across 26 branch libraries. The total number has increased by 150% since November 2001 (the date of the previous OLA report). Three hundred, or about 64%, of the Library's computers have Internet access. One hundred and thirty-nine (139) of these computers, or about 46%, are located at the Main Library.

The digital divide is widest at the lowest school levels. Thirty percent (30%) of elementary school classrooms have not yet been connected to the Internet, while the average student/computer ratio at middle schools is 15:1.1

Methodology

No single source of demographic information on the digital divide exists. Instead various governmental and non-governmental studies have attempted to gauge the expanse of the digital divide using different methods. For brief descriptions of these studies, see the footnote sections of this report. Further complicating any analysis of the digital divide is the fact that these studies are not cross-referenced with one another (indeed they were not created for this purpose) and thus comparisons among them are difficult to make. Nevertheless, whenever it was appropriate to compare these studies the OLA has done so.

Summary of Prior Studies

The following section summarizes the key findings of various federal, state and local studies on the digital divide in California.

PPIC Survey2

Asians lead all other racial/ethnic groups in computer (91%) and Internet (83%) use.

Latinos are much less likely than all other racial/ethnic groups to use computers (65%) and the Internet (47%).

Blacks are similar to all Californians when it comes to using computers (76%) and the Internet (62%).

Table 1

Race/Ethnicity

Use Computer

Use Internet

All Californians

76%

65%

Non-Hispanic Whites

79%

70%

Asians

91%

83%

Blacks

76%

62%

Latinos

65%

47%

 

All racial and ethnic groups in California are more likely to use computers and the Internet than their counterparts at the national level.3 Notably, the PPIC surveyed individuals while the Commerce Department surveyed entire households. In addition, these surveys asked slightly different questions about computer and Internet usage. Any conclusions should therefore be drawn tentatively.

PPIC Survey continued

Residents in the San Francisco Bay Area are more likely to use computers (82%) and the Internet (73%) than other Californians.

Table 2

Region

Use Computer

Use Internet

San Francisco Bay Area

82%

73%

Los Angeles County

74%

61%

Southern California

76%

67%

Central Valley

73%

61%

Computer and Internet usage appears to be positively correlated with Californians between 18 and 64 years of age, those with higher incomes and those more educated.

Table 3

Category

Use Computer

Use Internet

Age

  

18-64

83%

71%

65+

39%

29%

Education

  

High School or Less

56%

41%

Some College

81%

69%

College Graduate

89%

82%

Income

  

Under $20,000

48%

35%

$20,000-$59,000

76%

63%

$60,000 and Above

93%

85%

   

Controller's 2002 Citizen Survey4

More than three fourths (76%) of all respondents have access to the Internet at home, work or other place.

Respondents in Districts 7 and 8 are more likely than other San Franciscans to say they have Internet access (both at 85%). Districts 3, 10 and 11 respondents reported the smallest percentages of Internet access in the City (62%, 69% and 66% respectively).

Table 4

002-03DigitalDivideUpdate-1

California Technology Assistance Project (CTAP)5

Schools in Region 4, which includes San Francisco, are slightly more connected to the Internet (81%) than the statewide average (80%). For its analysis, the CTAP divided the State into eleven regions (see Appendix).

The overall ratio of K-12 students to computers in Region 4 (5.77) is smaller than the statewide average (6.97).

Table 5

002-03DigitalDivideUpdate-2

San Francisco's Libraries and Schools

Apart from the above-noted studies, the OLA analyzed the extent of the digital divide in San Francisco's public libraries and schools.

San Francisco Public Library (SFPL)6

The request for this report specifically asked the OLA to update File No. 011590, dated November 29, 2001, regarding the digital divide. In that report, the OLA reported that the SFPL maintained a total of 188 computers, including 38 at the Main Library and 150 dispersed across 26 branch libraries.

In FY 02-03, the Library replaced all of its text-based terminals with PCs. Today, of the Library's 470 computers, 191 are located at the Main Library and 279 are dispersed across 26 branch libraries. To varying degrees, all of the Library's computers have access to a combination of programs including the Internet, word processing, an online catalog system or special educational software for children. The City Librarian advised the OLA that all computer services are free of charge.7

The Attachment, provided by the City Librarian, contains a breakdown of the number and location of the Library's computers, and includes information on their Internet and software capabilities.

Accompanying the growth in the Library's computers, however, is the persistence of the digital divide. The City Librarian advises:

"Based upon the large and diverse population served by the San Francisco Public Library, and the limited amount of square footage available in the 26 branch libraries and the Main Library that can be dedicated to public computer use, the Library projects that it will not, in the foreseeable future, be able to meet the needs for access to computers and the Internet that the residents of San Francisco want and deserve."

The Library, nevertheless, has plans to reduce the digital divide. In November 2000, San Francisco voters passed Proposition A, the Branch Library Improvement Program, totaling $105.9 million. Combined with other State and local, public and private fund sources this program will renovate 19 branch libraries, replace 4 leased facilities with City-own branches and construct a new branch in Mission Bay.

As part of the planning to implement the program, the SFPL has solicited input from residents throughout the City at community meetings. Residents felt that the Library has an insufficient number of computers and space for books at branch libraries. According to the City Librarian, this input demands that the Library maintain a "reasonable balance" between computers and book space. Therefore, the Library will add more book space (whenever feasible) and about 120 computers to its branch libraries.

Computer and Internet usage at libraries is brisk. For instance, at the Main Library, there were 24,421 bookings (computer reservations) which accounted for about 17,008 computer-use hours during the month of July 2003 alone. However, whether current computer supplies are sufficient to meet user demands is uncertain. The Library intends to address this issue by asking patrons directly about their computer and Internet usage in its "annual user satisfaction survey." The latest survey was conducted in November 2003 and its results will be shared with the Board of Supervisors, according to the City Librarian.

San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD)8

The OLA report (dated November 29, 2001) did not address the digital divide in San Francisco's public schools. The following therefore is a preliminary look at this issue.

All of the District's 112 elementary, middle and high schools are currently connected to the District's Central Office and the Internet via a "T1" data communication line. However, only 85, or about 76%, have local area networks or "LANs" which connect individual classrooms to the Internet. The School District is in the process of installing LANs and electrical upgrades at the remaining schools and children centers.9 The SFUSD intends to complete this work within the current fiscal year. The following table summarizes the work that has and has not yet been completed.

Table 6

School Type

# of Schools Completed

# of Schools Not Completed

Total

Children Center

0

15

15

Elementary

53

23

76

Middle

16

2

18

High

16

2

18

Total

85

42

127

The digital divide appears to be widest at the lower school levels. All children centers and 30% of elementary schools have not yet received network installations or electrical upgrades. The remaining work is proceeding relatively fast considering the fact the much of the wiring installed in schools has been done using volunteer labor and donated equipment, according to SFUSD officials.

Students/Computer Ratios

SFUSD also advised the OLA that the optimal ratio of students to computers is 5:1. This ratio is based on computers that are three years old or less. The following table summarizes average student/computer ratios in San Francisco schools. Notably, these "average ratios" include schools with computers that are more than three years old.

Table 7

School Type

Average Ratio

Elementary

13:1

Middle

15:1

High

6:1

Here, too, the digital divide appears to be widest at the lower school levels (elementary and middle schools). High schools have a student/computer ratio (6:1) comparable to the overall ratio in San Francisco (5.77:1) as reported by CTAP. SFUSD officials advised the OLA that California's Digital High School Grant enabled high schools to purchase and support updated computer equipment. However, due to the State's current budget crisis, these funds are no longer available. According to SFUSD officials, the digital divide among high schools may therefore begin to widen if alternative funds are not identified in the near future.

Conclusion

Based on our literature review and interviews with several City officials, evidence exists to support the following conclusions:

San Franciscans have relatively good access to computers and the Internet.

Information on computer and Internet use by different race/ethnic groups in San Francisco is scarce.

Residents in Supervisorial Districts 3, 10 and 11 are less likely than other San Franciscans to have Internet access.

The City's Public Library appears to be meeting an unmet but not yet quantified need for computer and Internet services.

In terms of computer availability and Internet connectivity, the digital divide appears to be widest at elementary and middle schools.

In closing, the Board of Supervisors may wish to schedule a hearing on how to best address the digital divide.

Appendix

Region 1: Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake Mendocino, Sonoma; Region 2: Butte, Glen, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity; Region 3: Alpine, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba; Region 4: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano; Region 5: Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz; Region 6: Amador, Calaveras, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tuolumne; Region 7: Fresno, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Tulare; Region 8: Kern, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara; Ventura; Region 9: Imperial, Organge, San Diego; Region 10: Inyo, Mono, Riverside, San Bernadino; Region 11: Los Angeles.

1 The previous OLA report (dated November 29, 2001) addressed the digital divide in San Francisco's public libraries, but not schools. Therefore, with respect to schools, we had no previous data to compare. As such, the digital divide in public schools is examined for the first time in this report.

2California's Digital Divide prepared by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). This is compilation of eight PPIC Statewide Surveys conducted between September 1999 and January 2001 and includes data from 15,941 adult California residents.

3Falling through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion, A Report on America's Access to Technology Tools, October 2000 prepared by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

4Results of the 2002 Citizen Survey prepared by the Controller's Performance Management Unit with assistance from the Public Research Institute of San Francisco State University. 1,544 citizens were asked about their Internet access.

5California Technology Assistance Project (CTAP), Summary of Year 2000, Statewide School Survey Findings, June 2000 prepared by the California Department of Education and several of its affiliates. In 2000, CTAP surveyed a random sample of almost 2,500 public elementary, middle and high schools.

6 Information for this section is derived from several phone interviews with the Office of the City Librarian, August 2003.

7 The Main Library and some branch libraries also offer free training workshops on computer and Internet usage. Class topics include but are not limited to Basic Mouse Skills, Introduction to the World Wide Web, Internet Tips and Tricks, and E-mail.

8 Information for this section is derived from several phone interviews with SFUSD officials, August 2003.

9 The children centers are infant/toddler, pre-kindergarten programs. They are primarily located at elementary schools and serve approximately 4,500 children per year. Currently, most of the centers use a computer with a dial-up modem to connect with the District's Central Office and the Internet.