As the discussion on net neutrality and equal access to high-speed Internet continues, minorities continue to make strides in closing the digital divide. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, minorities are not only gaining access to the Web, we’re doing it without necessarily having to access a desktop or a laptop. When it comes to social media, we’re not only using it at a higher rate, but we also have a different perspective on how we engage with the technology.
According to the report, since 2000, the racial makeup of American Internet users has started to more closely resemble the offline population. In fact the amount of black and Latino users has almost doubled from 11% to 21%. In addition, increasing amounts of African Americans have broadband in their homes although whites are still leading. Blacks are also less likely to go online or own a desktop computer compared to their white counterparts. 51% of African Americans own a desktop compared to 65% of whites.
While African Americans might not being using desktops to access the Web, the mobile sector is a whole new ballgame. According to the report, Latinos and blacks are more likely to own a mobile phone than whites and outpace whites in mobile app use.
Compared with white cell phone owners, blacks and Latinos are significantly more likely to use their mobile devices to:
- Text message (70% of all African-Americans and English-speaking Latinos use text messaging, vs. just over half of whites)
- Use social networking sites
- Use the internet
- Record and watch videos
- Make a charitable donation via text message (this finding is particularly interesting since white internet users are more likely to have made a charitable donation online—25% of online whites have done so, compared with 17% of African-Americans and 14% of Latinos.)
- Use email
- Play games
- Listen to music
- Use instant messaging
- Post multimedia content online
When it comes to laptops, African Americans have recently been purchasing laptops at an increased rate. African-American laptop ownership has risen from 34% in 2009 to 51% this year.
We’ve seen recent interest in how blacks are using Twitter. The answer is a lot. Seven out of ten African Americans use social networking sites in comparison to six out of ten whites with a quarter of blacks online using Twitter. So what exactly are we doing online? Sharing information, most notably information about the latest happenings in their neighborhood. It was also noted that blacks felt that social networking sites were a good way to keep abreast of government news.
So what can we take from this report? As technology becomes more affordable and accessible, minorities are incorporating it into their lives at an encouraging rate. There are still a number of disparities, most notably in home broadband access, but hopefully as time goes on every American will have equal access to high-speed Internet and all its benefits.