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Summary of User Profiles and Expectations

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November 1995 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 712 questionnaires, completed between April 1995 and October 1995. The total online population in November 1995 was about 16,000 -- over 40% of the Blacksburg population.

User Profile

The majority (89%) of users are affiliated with Virginia Tech. The proportion of users registering at the BEV Office who are affiliated with Tech, however, is dropping. The University introduced in Fall 1995 a registration service on campus for faculty, staff and students. As a result, the BEV Office currently provides service primarily to the general community (non-university affiliates). Thus, the results in this survey reflect a transition in some of the demographics and expectations of users to a population with a greater number of general community members.

The proportion of Tech affiliates registering through the BEV Office in the period April-October 1995 dropped from 66% to 61%. The proportion of female users has risen from 26% (April 1994) to 33%. The majority of users are in a higher education group, either having some undergraduate schooling (30%), an undergraduate degree (23%), some graduate schooling (13%), or a graduate degree (27%). The mean income is in the $30-40,000 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 of people (78%) registering for BEV are somewhat or very experienced with computers, but this is down slightly from the previous survey period (January 1, 1995) in which 82% reported being somewhat or very experienced with computers. This might imply that a more general population of users is subscribing to BEV services than in the early stages of the project. The proportion of users reporting to be "only a little" or "not at all" experienced with computer networking remains high at about two-thirds (62%), the same as the previous survey period. But a slightly higher proportion (up from 12% to 14%) report being very experienced with computer networking. The number of people reporting they are the only user of their computer has dropped from 49% to 35%. The number of people reporting that they use more than one computer has declined slightly from 42% to 39%. The user split between Macintosh and Windows/DOS-based computers has not changed since the previous survey; the majority (82%) use a Windows or DOS-based computer; 15% use Macintosh.

Sources of Information

Most people (36%) first learned about BEV through close interpersonal channels: 36% through family or friends, 29% through co-workers or school. While a majority (79%) have heard BEV discussed in the mass media, only 16% first heard of BEV from such sources (TV, radio or newspaper). This is down from 46% in earlier surveys. Most BEV subscribers (76%) read a local newspaper (The Roanoke Times or the News Messenger) more than once a month; a little over half (53%) read a national paper more than once a month. 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:

  • Accessing information or data: steady at 93%
  • World Wide Web: up from 86% (4/95) to 91%
  • Bulletin boards, newsgroups: down slightly from 90% to 88%;
  • Accessing library catalogs: down from 83% to 76%
  • Gopher: down from 77% to 68%

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 the earliest survey report (4/94) shows:

  • learning: down slightly from 91% to 89%
  • civic affairs: up from 62% to 68%
  • social relations: up from 64% to 79%
  • support for work or business: about the same at 65% and 66%
  • consumer affairs: up from 48% to 50%
  • teaching: steady at 47%
  • entertainment: up from 42% to 52%
  • medical services: up from 26% to 45%
  • local news and information: steady at 70%