BEV Logo

Summary of User Profiles and Expectations

The content contained within the Research section of the site is for archival purposes, and may or may not be current.


March 1996

Scott Patterson and Andrea Kavanaugh

The Blacksburg Electronic Village (BEV) distributes a survey questionnaire to each person who registers for Internet services through the BEV Office. The summary below highlights findings from an analysis of 312 questionnaires, completed between November 1995 and March 1996.

User Profile

The majority (89%) of Internet users in Blacksburg and Montgomery County are affiliated with Virginia Tech. However, the proportion of users registering for service through the BEV Office who are affiliated with Tech is very small. The University introduced in Fall 1995 a registration service on campus for faculty, staff and students. As a result during this data collection period, the BEV Office provided service primarily to the non-university community (80% of respondents in this survey period are not Tech affiliates). Thus, the results in this survey are profiles of users predominanatly from the general community.

The proportion of Tech affiliates registering through the BEV Office in the period October 1995 to March 1996 dropped from 61% (for the previous six month period) to 20% (8% student, 6% faculty and 6% staff). The proportion of female users has risen from 26% (April 1994) to 42%. The majority (84%) of users are in a higher education group, either having some undergraduate schooling (23%), an undergraduate degree (23%), some graduate schooling (12%), or a graduate degree (27%). The mean income is in the $25-40,000 range; but all income brackets are represented (low income brackets include students).

Computer and Network Literacy

As with earlier surveys, BEV users report they are more computer literate than network literate. The majority (69%) of people registering for BEV during this period are somewhat or very experienced with computers; this is down slightly from the previous survey periods, i.e., January 1995 in which 82% and October 1995 in which 76% reported being somewhat or very experienced with computers. This might be due to the fact that a more general population of users is subscribing to BEV services than in the early stages of the project. The number of people reporting they are the only user of their computer has dropped from 49% in January 1995 to 35% in November 1995 to 36% in this collection period. The user split between Macintosh and Windows/DOS-based computers has been fairly steady since January 1995; the majority (84%) use a Windows or DOS-based computer; 14% use Macintosh.

Sources of Information

Most people (67%) first learned about BEV through close interpersonal channels: 43% through family or friends, 24% through co-workers or school. While a majority (76%) have heard BEV discussed in the mass media, only 16% first heard of BEV from such sources (TV or newspaper). This is down from 46% in earlier surveys (April 1994). Most BEV subscribers (85%) read a local newspaper (The Roanoke Times and World Report or the News Messenger) more than once a month; less than half (44%) read a national paper more than once a month (down from previous survey group with 53% in 11/95). Most users (70%) subscribe to cable TV.

Expected Usefulness of Services

Consistent with the previous surveys, electronic mail is the network service that most registrants (95%) are somewhat or very interested in using. In order of greatest popularity, and in comparison with the earliest survey report (4/94, unless otherwise noted), users are somewhat or very interested in using the following services:

  • electronic mail: steady at 95%
  • Accessing information or data: steady at 93%
  • World Wide Web: up from 86% (1/95) and 91% (11/95) to 92%
  • Bulletin boards, newsgroups: down from 90% (1/95) and 88% (11/95) to 86%
  • Accessing library catalogs: down from 83% (1/95) and 76% (11/95) to 75%
  • Gopher: down from 77% (1/95) and 68% (11/95) to 58%v

A user ranking of the expected helpfulness of BEV services (that is, those reporting they expected BEV services to be somewhat or very helpful), in comparison with earlier data collection periods (1/95, 11/95) shows:

  • learning: up from 91% and 89% to 94%
  • gaining computer skills (new category): 90%
  • local news and information: up from 70% to 74%
  • social relations: up from 64% to 79% and 78%
  • civic affairs: up from 62% and 68% to 70%
  • support for work or business: up from 65% and 66% to 69%
  • teaching: up from 47% to 59%
  • consumer affairs: up from 48% and 50% to 54%
  • medical services: up from 26% to 45% and 54%
  • entertainment: up from 42% to 52% and 53%