Friday, March 31, 2006

Closing America's Digital Divide

The New York Times reports today that blacks and English-speaking hispanics are using the internet in greater and greater numbers. According to a Pew survey in 1998, 42% of white American adults said they used the internet while only 23% of black adults did so. A new Pew poll, completed last month, reports that 74% of whites, 61% of blacks, and 80% of English-speaking hispanic go online.

While it is note-worthy that English-speaking hispanics have surpassed the white population in internet use, this does not mean that hispanics in general have higher access. The Pew study did not measure the internet-use of non-English-speaking hispanics, which experts expect would be low. Also, English-speaking hispanics may be younger second-generation immigrants, thus making the sample of English-speaking hispanics younger overall than the sample of the white population, which would include whites of all generations. Because young people are more likely to be comfortable with the internet than older people, the English-speaking hispanic figure may be higher than the white figure because it includes a higher percentage of young tech-savvy hispanics. In order to assess the internet usage of the hispanic population in general, it will be necessary to measure the usage of non-English-speaking hispanics as well.

So, Americans are making progress in bridging the digital divide, which means marginalized citizens are gaining greater access to the communication and information tools. Lets hope we hear good news from other countries too.

categories: the digital divide_

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