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One Fifth of Americans Have Never Used E-Mail

Posted by: Olga Kharif on May 19, 2008

We keep talking about Web 1.0 and Web. 2.0. But the fact is, a huge percentage of America has never been to a Web of any kind.

One fifth of Americans have never used e-mail, according to a recent survey by consultancy Parks Associates. Of 1,088 people surveyed, 21% have never done a search on the Internet or looked up a Web site. This is startling — and troubling.

Yes, many of these people are older: Half of the people who said they’ve never used e-mail are over 65, and 56% had no schooling beyond high school. But so what? I know of plenty of Web sites geared toward older folks:,, for instance. Everyone can benefit from and eBay. Clearly, Web businesses — and perhaps even U.S. government — must find a way to reach out to people who’ve been completely left out of the Web revolution.

Reader Comments


May 19, 2008 4:24 PM

" This is startling — and troubling." Is it April Fool's already again? I highly recommend occasional week long fasts from all things electronic from Mac to Phone. It does wonders to see a day pass quietly and dwell with a few books, pen and paper for awhile.


May 19, 2008 7:12 PM

Ridiculous. The unpopular reality that many web boosters do not want to believe is that the web does not provide new things to do. Most web users simply read email, read the news and pay bills online.
You do not need the internet for any of these things.

Assuming that anyone who doesn't use the internet is somehow disadvantaged is as arrogant and ridiculous as assuming a person without a cell phone is somehow disconnected from the world.

It just isn't true.


May 20, 2008 3:55 PM

Bru -

Sorry to disagree w/ you but you're dead wrong (ok, so maybe I'm not so sorry).

The web does provide new things to do and more important new things to find.

While it's true day to day use of the web is probably limited to email, news and bill payment the people that do do those things KNOW how to do other things - explore their library's stacks, research the medication their doctor just prescribed, read the NY Times while sitting in a cafe in Athens (GA or Greece).

Just b/c 80% of interactions that take place online can be done offline doesn't mean the remaining 20% is without value.

It's not can it be done another way - it's why isn't this ~20% audience not even TRYING the other way.


May 26, 2008 9:06 PM

Welcome to the real world, folks. The digital divide is still very real, and it's not just about helping the newbies into the fold. The Internet COSTS MONEY. PCs COST MONEY. 'Free' hot-spots are only accessible if you already have the mobile device. For many people, the Internet is still a half-hour window that is a bus ride away at the library. $200-300 laptops will help, but not so long as families have to work two and three jobs with no benefits just to afford the price of gas.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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