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Data Preview: What's New in the July 2015 CPS Computer and Internet Use Supplement

January 13, 2016 by Rafi Goldberg, Policy Analyst, Office of Policy Analysis and Development

In July 2015, NTIA commissioned the Census Bureau to conduct the latest Computer and Internet Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS). NTIA uses this survey to help understand why, where, and how Americans use the Internet, as well as what barriers stand in the way of effective Internet use.

We are awaiting the results of the latest survey, which has been significantly redesigned to fit the changing technological landscape.  NTIA has developed a more person-centric survey instrument, as opposed to household-centric questioning, that gathers data on the range of devices people use, the places they are used, and how they are used.

We increased the flexibility of the survey instrument by making it easier to add device, location, and online activity categories while preserving our ability to track changes over time. We’re taking advantage of the new structure by asking Americans about wearable devices for the first time, as well as whether they use the Internet to interact with household equipment, like a connected thermostat or security system.

We also reserved space in the survey to ask questions about policy issues. In 2015, we gathered data on privacy and security by asking how frequently households have been affected by data breaches, whether privacy or security concerns have hampered online activities, and what people are most worried about when it comes to online privacy and security risks.

The CPS Computer and Internet Use Supplement has evolved significantly since our first survey in 1994, which began with a simple question: “Does someone in this household own a personal computer?” Additional questions included how households used computers, how they might like to use computers in the future, and whether and how any children in the household utilized computers at school or home.

As technology evolved, NTIA expanded the scope of CPS Supplement questions to cover the changing nature of computer and Internet use. We began gathering more data on how individuals within households use computers and the Internet, and asking about Internet use outside the home.  The July survey was the 13th CPS Supplement to be fielded since its debut 21 years ago. It reflects the reality of today’s anytime, anywhere Internet use, and maintains enough flexibility to adjust to coming innovations.

The Census Bureau is processing the results from the July 2015 CPS Supplement and preparing them for public release. Our new NTIA Data Central will enable us to more rapidly share the data and our analyses as they become available. Stay tuned for more!

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