Pixel Tracker

Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 11:35 pm | Fair 47º


Survey: More Californians Using Cell Phones to Go Online

Mobile devices changing work habits, show potential for narrowing digital divide

Californians are twice as likely to use their cell phones to access the Internet than they were just three years ago, according to a statewide survey released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The PPIC survey — the third in a series focusing on information technology issues — was conducted with funding from the California Emerging Technology Fund and ZeroDivide.

While state residents are more likely to go online from their desktop (56 percent) or laptop computer (55 percent), 40 percent connect to the Internet from their cell phones — up from 19 percent in 2008 and 26 percent in 2009. Internet users who go online via cell phone are also doing so more often, with 59 percent saying they do several times a day (30 percent in 2009). Just 9 percent say they access the Internet by cell phone every few weeks, less often, or never; 35 percent gave this response in 2009.

The use of cell phones to go online has increased across racial and ethnic groups. Today, 57 percent of blacks (31 percent in 2008), 43 percent of whites (18 percent in 2008), 41 percent of Asians (24 percent in 2008), and 32 percent of Latinos (16 percent in 2008) say they have accessed the Internet this way. Although Latinos are the group least likely to have a computer or Internet access at home, Latinos who use their cell phones to go online are twice as likely as whites (40 percent to 21 percent) to say that they mostly access the Internet this way.

“Californians are increasingly using their cell phones and a variety of other mobile devices to gather useful information throughout the course of their daily lives,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “The growing use of cell phones for accessing the Internet is changing the way that Californians relate to work, and this trend also has promise for reducing the digital divide.”

Nearly all Californians (93 percent) have cell phones, and 39 percent of these say they have a smartphone. Similarly, 41 percent say they pay for a data plan for their cell phones. Most use their phones to send or receive text messages (74 percent, up 16 points since 2008). Far fewer use them to send or receive email (42 percent, up 16 points since 2008), download a software app (33 percent) or make a charitable donation (10 percent).

Not at Work, But Still Working

Among all cell phone users, about a third (32 percent) use their phones for work-related activities when they’re away from work, while 59 percent do not. There are regional differences. In the San Francisco Bay Area — home to the Silicon Valley — 41 percent use their cell phones to work remotely, compared with 34 percent in the Inland Empire, 33 percent in Orange/San Diego counties, 31 percent in Los Angeles, and 24 percent in the Central Valley.

Asians (40 percent) are the racial or ethnic group most likely to work remotely by cell phone, compared with 32 percent of whites and 30 percent of Latinos. Men are much more likely than women (39 percent to 26 percent) to use their cell phones to work remotely. The percentage of Californians who use their cell phones this way increases with income and education.

Among Californians with a laptop and wireless connection, 43 percent use this technology to work outside the workplace.

Half of Californians Use Social Networking Sites

No matter how they access the Internet, Californians are increasing their online activity, with social networking seeing the biggest increase in the last three years. Among these activities:

» Getting news on current events — 66 percent of adults, up 11 points from 2008

» Purchasing goods and services — 64 percent, up 12 points from 2008

» Getting health or medical information — 61 percent, up 11 points from 2008

» Getting information about the community — 59 percent, up 12 points from 2008

» Visiting a government website — 53 percent, similar to 2008

» Using a social networking site — 52 percent, up 26 points from 2008

» Accessing government resources — 51 percent, up 8 points from 2008

» Looking for information about a job — 49 percent, same as 2008

» Pursuing education purposes — 45 percent

» Getting housing or real estate information — 45 percent, up 5 points from 2008

» Using Twitter — 30 percent, up 12 points from 2009

» Working on their own blogs — 15 percent, similar to 2009

Older, less-educated and lower-income Californians, along with Latinos, are less likely than others to do most of these activities. Californians without health insurance are much less likely than those with it to go online for health or medical information (47 percent to 66 percent).

More Latinos Have Broadband, But Digital Divide Persists

Nearly all Californians have a cell phone, but ownership of other electronic devices that connect to the Internet varies across demographic groups. Most residents have a desktop computer (65 percent) or laptop or netbook (61 percent), but far fewer have a game console (41 percent), a tablet computer (14 percent) or an electronic book reader (11 percent). Using a desktop to connect to the Internet is more common among whites (64 percent) and Asians (58 percent) than among blacks (49 percent) and Latinos (42 percent), as is use of a laptop to connect (65 percent Asians, 62 percent whites, 57 percent blacks, 38 percent Latinos). Use of a desktop or laptop computer to access the Internet increases with education and income.

The percentage of Californians using the Internet has grown since 2000 (65 percent in 2000, 70 percent in 2008, 76 percent in 2009, 81 percent in 2010, 84 percent today). Californians are somewhat more likely than adults nationwide to use the Internet or email at least occasionally, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, which tracks use at the national level (77 percent U.S. adults in Pew survey, 84 percent California adults in PPIC survey). Californians in the PPIC survey are also more likely than U.S. adults in the Pew survey to have Internet access (76 percent to 68 percent) or a broadband connection at home (72 percent to 61 percent).

A digital divide persists among demographic groups. The percentage of adults with a broadband connection at home declines with age and rises sharply with income and education. Across racial and ethnic groups, Latinos (55 percent) are the least likely to have a broadband connection (74 percent blacks, 76 percent Asians, 81 percent whites) or to use the Internet (70 percent Latinos, 85 percent blacks, 86 percent Asians, 92 percent whites). Still, the share of Latinos with a home broadband connection has doubled since 2007 — from 28 percent to 55 percent today.

Most Log On From Home

Most Internet users say they go online from home at least about once a day (19 percent) or several times a day (49 percent). Less than half of Internet users go online from work: 8 percent about once a day and 37 percent several times. The frequency of Internet use from work has declined slightly (52 percent in 2008 vs. 45 percent today), and use from someplace other than home or work has increased somewhat (14 percent in 2008 vs. 23 percent today). Among those who use their laptops to go online via WiFi or mobile broadband, 86 percent do so at home, while 39 percent do so at work. A majority — 55 percent — do so at some place other than home or work.

Most See High-Speed Internet as Utility, Not Luxury

A large majority of Californians say people without broadband connections are at a major (62 percent) or minor (20 percent) disadvantage when it comes to finding information about job opportunities or gaining new career skills. Across racial and ethnic groups, blacks (71 percent) and Latinos (68 percent) are more likely to say that people without high-speed Internet access at home are at a disadvantage (62 percent Asians, 57 percent whites). Californians 18 to 34 years old (70 percent) are far more likely than those over age 55 (49 percent) to hold this view.

There is a consensus about teaching computer and Internet skills in public school: An overwhelming majority of adults say it is very important (76 percent) or somewhat important (18 percent), and across political parties, demographic groups, and regions strong majorities hold this view.

Most adults (56 percent) say that expanding affordable high-speed broadband Internet access to everyone in the country should be a priority for the federal government, and 19 percent say it should be a top priority. There is a partisan split, with Democrats and independents (60 percent each) far more likely than Republicans (38 percent) to have this view. Asked whether high-speed Internet is a public utility that everyone should be able to access or a luxury that some people may not be able to have, solid majorities (66 percent adults, 61 percent likely voters) say it should be viewed as a public utility. Most Democrats (73 percent) and independents (69 percent) hold this view, while Republicans (42 percent) are much less likely to do so.

Californians’ opinions are mixed on how much the government should be doing to improve the access and availability of high-speed broadband technology: A plurality (41 percent) say the government is doing just enough, 27 percent say the government is not doing enough, and 15 percent say the government is doing more than enough; 17 percent don’t know.

More Key Findings

» Among those offline, a lack of interest in the Internet: Today, 16 percent of Californians do not use the Internet — down from 24 percent in 2009 — and the vast majority (79 percent) of them say they are not interested in doing so.

» Why stay connected? Keeping in touch with others is a top reason: Most who have cell phones or access the Internet from their laptops say that staying in touch easily with other people (59 percent) or having easy access to information online (52 percent) is very important outside of home or work.

» Most parents visit school websites: Among parents of children age 18 or younger, 63 percent report visiting their child’s school website sometimes or often. White parents are far more likely (76 percent) than Latino parents (50 percent) to do so.

About the Survey

Findings are based on a telephone survey of 2,502 California adult residents, including 2,001 interviewed on landline telephones and 501 interviewed on cell phones. Interviews were conducted from June 1-14 in English, Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese), Vietnamese and Korean, according to respondents’ preferences. The sampling error for all adults, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is plus or minus 2.8 percent. For subgroups it is larger: for the 1,609 registered voters, it is plus or minus 3.1 percent; for the 1,132 likely voters, it is plus or minus 3.6 percent; for the 2,099 Internet users, it is plus or minus 3 percent; and for the 1,793 users of broadband at home, it is plus or minus 3.3 percent.

Click here to view the complete survey.


Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.