Philadelphia's digital divide is alive and well, but it is taking shape in a different way than many might expect, according to poll results released Tuesday by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The report found the proportion of Philadelphians with Internet access has been steadily rising since 2011, when about 76 percent of residents were plugged in, compared to an estimated 82 percent who have access now. The trend appeared to cut across all races, with roughly the same proportion of white, black and Hispanic respondents reporting having web access.
Study authors hypothesize the upward trend is due, in large part, to the growing availability of web-enabled mobile devices. Sixty-five percent of respondents reported using cell phones to access the Internet, up from 45 percent in 2011.
"Cost is probably the biggest factor," project manager of Pew's Philadelphia Research Initiative Tom Ginsberg said. "It's generally much cheaper to have a phone you use for all kinds of things in addition to the Internet than to have a desktop in your home."
The poll found lower-income Philadelphians remain less likely to have available Internet connections. Seventy-three percent of those with household incomes under $30,000 reported having access, compared to 92 percent of those with household incomes over $100,000.
But the greatest digital disparity, by far, existed among age groups. Ninety-four percent of those aged 18 to 34 reported having Internet access, compared to just 54 percent of those 65 and older.
"It's clear in these numbers that when it comes to disparities in income, race or education -- among all those, the biggest gap we've had is in age," Ginsberg said. "The group of those 65 or older is the least connected to the Internet. ... We felt it was important to get these numbers out. There are some people who have been talking about the digital divide in Philadelphia, and hopefully, this will show the direction they should put their efforts, if they want to reach those residents who do not have Internet access."