The Internet and Public Access
LPF Strives to Increase Access to Information Technology

By Dr. Chris Landon, Director, Landon Pediatric Foundation, April 22, 1998

It is estimated that some 62 million people in the United States are using the Internet, about 30 per cent of U.S. residents age 16 and older (Intelliquest Information Group Inc., Austin, Texas). Twenty five per cent of these users were new comers in 1997. In home usage (Odyssey, San Francisco, California) has increased from 17% to 23% of U.S. homes in the last year, but this dims in comparison to 98 percent of U.S. homes with television sets, 67 per cent of which have cable. Personal computers are found in 42 per cent of the homes.

The meaning of this is not entirely clear. AOL has some 11 million subscribers but only 675,000 are on line at any one time - miniscule compared to TV viewing with almost 80 million people expected to see the last episode of Seinfeld.

The current users are wealthier, more educated (43 per cent having a college degree, compared to 31 per cent nationally), and male, as would be expected for use primarily in academics and business. New users (Cyber Dialogue, Inc., New York) are split evenly but 29 per cent have a college degree or higher. The average age is 37, equivalent to 36.2 for the U.S. Average income is twice the national average of $25,000 with 10 per cent having income in excess of $75,000.

Finding information is one of the top activities with search engines representing 9 of the top 25 sites. Netscape, Microsoft, America On Line, and free Web page space providers top the list with true content pages limited to ZDNet (computer magazine) CNN Interactive (news), ESPN Sportzone (sports). Pathfinder (Time Warner magazines), and the Weather Channel (weather).

Landon Pediatric Foundation seeks to explore ideas that are concerned with the fundamental issues of social equity and justice as they relate to the use of information and information systems in promoting health and preventing disease, prolonging life, and maximizing the full individual human potentials of all of the members of our society. From our focus groups it is clear that the residents of public housing grasp the importance of the transition from the "agricultural age" to the "industrial age" to the "information age". It is also just as clear that they feel they are intended to be left behind.

With our partners in the Sheriff's Department, schools, Healthy Start sites, medical clinics, and libraries it is our goal to implement and evaluate the effective dissemination of information and information systems to families below the federal poverty line without college educations. Our focus will be on maximizing the abilities of the users to find information, with special emphasis on promoting health and preventing disease.

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