Results of City’s Community Technology Survey inform efforts to help bridge digital divide in Tacoma

Tacoma, WA- To better understand how Tacoma residents use technology – as well as any related areas of need that may exist – the City of Tacoma surveyed 1,270 randomly selected households representing a diverse cross-section of the community in English, Korean, Khmer, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. The survey yielded a 41 percent response rate as well as detailed data that supported preliminary findings.

Nearly all respondents indicated that they had a computing or internet-enabled device in the household, with smartphones slightly edging out computers in usage. Most survey respondents indicated that they use technology for communications, information and entertainment, and expressed a belief that it was “somewhat” or “very important” for everyone to have access to computers, the internet and the training to use them. Most also felt that the City should work to ensure access for residents without these tools, and a fifth of respondents said they connect to the internet at their local public library. Most were unaware of programs offered by commercial internet providers to low income households.

“While most respondents told us that they have the technology they want or need, the preliminary data we had which indicated that there may be certain areas of need across Tacoma relating to the way residents use technology has held true and we now have a better perspective on that,” said Information Technology Director Jack Kelanic. “For those who indicated they do not have the technology they want or need, things like more current devices, printers and better internet service rose to the surface as priority areas.”
The data gleaned from this recent survey will inform the City’s efforts as it continues to find solutions to issues involving inequity in Tacoma, and to consider how equitable access to technology can impact employment, economic development, education, health, safety and community engagement.

“Moving forward, we will be looking to see how we can get computers into the hands of those who need them, we will be working with our community partners to increase public access to computers and digital literacy training, and we will be working with commercial internet providers to ensure that low-income households are aware of any programs available to help them,” said Kelanic.
Survey results are available online at
and will soon be published in machine-readable format on TacomaData, the City’s open data portal, – which looks pretty spiffy, and as though there will be ongoing releases of what is going on in the city, such as fire department responses and repaired pothole maps. Questions regarding the Community Technology Survey process can be directed to the City’s Information Technology Department by dialing 311 within Tacoma city limits, or (253) 591-5000 from anywhere else.

Mail and community surveys
City staff and consultants developed an eight-page paper survey which was mailed to 150 randomly selected pilot households in August 2016, with 37% returned. A slightly revised survey, with a $2 bill attached, was mailed to the remaining 1100 randomly selected Tacoma addresses in the sample in mid-September 2016. Fifty-eight of the envelopes were returned as undeliverable, indicating that 1192 surveys were mailed to a valid Tacoma addresses. Forty-one percent of those sampled completed the survey, for a total of 484 responses.

The mail survey sampling was done to produce a sample as close to the City demographics as possible, and was available in English, and speakers of Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Korean, and Khmer were invited to call to be interviewed in their language.
In addition to the “mail survey,” an abbreviated survey (the “mini-survey”) was created and administered online and on paper at community events, libraries, senior centers, and through Tacoma Public Schools. 533 individuals responded to this survey.

Figure 4, shown below and taken from the survey result report, shows: nearly all (94%) of Tacoma residents have some kind of computing or internet device at home. About three-fourths (77%) have both a computer (desktop, laptop, or netbook) and a mobile device (smart phone or tablet). Almost one in ten (9%) have only a mobile device (no computer) and almost as many (8%) have only a computer (no mobile device). Results from the mini-survey are similar. These results indicate 5% without any devices (all of those without any device live in ZIP codes with median incomes below $46,000 per year), 80% with both a computer and a mobile device, 9% with computer only and 8% with mobile only.

– City of Tacoma

Image courtesy  City of Tacoma

Image courtesy
City of Tacoma