Thursday, September 6, 2001

Most Hawaii
households now
sport computers

92 percent of them are
connected to the Internet

By Pat Omandam

WHEN DICK TRACY first used his wristwatch to call headquarters in the 1930s, no one could predict when, or if, such fictional technology might become reality.

Today, with the advancement and acceptance of computer technology and the Internet, some believe that future is here.

"We are on an inextricable course for a two-way wrist TV, a la Dick Tracy," said Rolf Nordahl, president of MacMouse.Com in Honolulu.

According to a Census Bureau report released today, 51 percent or 54 million American households had one or more computers in August 2000.

The estimates are up from 42 percent in December 1998 and are a fivefold increase from 8.2 percent in 1984, the first year the Census Bureau collected data on computer ownership and use, said analyst Eric Newburger, author of the report.

"In addition, Internet use is rapidly becoming synonymous with computer availability," Newburger said.

The study showed about 94 million people used the Internet at home in 2000, including 18 million children between ages 3 and 17, and 75 million adults 18 years and older. Instead of state-by-state listings, the report grouped the country into regions, with the West having the highest percentage of households with computers at 57.2 percent and the South with the lowest at 47.1 percent.

A separate survey conducted by SMS Research Hawaii during the first quarter of 2001 showed that of the 386,017 households in Hawaii, 68.7 percent, or 265,264 households, have a computer at home. And of those homes with computers, 91.9 percent have Internet access, said Hersh Singer, chairman of SMS Research.

Computer usage

Stephen Y. Itoga, professor and chairman of the information and computer services department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said e-mail and the Internet are pervasive in communications.

For example, Itoga points to a new pattern in the ways new graduates try to get a job. Instead of knocking on doors and dropping off resumes, his students now go online to a company's Web site to view job opportunities and make initial contact with the company.

And once they get hired, they again turn to the World Wide Web for information on things such as travel arrangements and car rentals.

While more affluent and more highly educated adults are more likely to have computers or use the Internet, the Census Bureau report also showed 65 percent of all children ages 3 to 17 lived in a household with a computer in 2000, up from 55 percent in 1998. Also, 53 percent of these households had Internet access.

Jeff Bloom, president of the Computer Training Academy/Network Resource Center, the state's oldest and largest computer training center, said one reason for the growing number of home computers is because it is now cheaper than ever to get an entry-level computer. "Years ago, a lot of people only had a computer at work, (and) not many people had a computer at home. Now, it's a standard appliance," Bloom said.

Among adults, the report shows nearly one in five used the Internet to check news, weather or sports. One in four adults used it for other information searches, such as businesses, health practices and government services.

By ethnicity, the survey showed about 77 percent of white non-Hispanic and 72 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander children lived in households with computers, while only 43 percent of African-American children and 37 percent of Hispanic children did.

The estimates are from a survey of about 50,000 U.S. households for the bureau's Current Population Survey of August 2000.

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