A Different Side to the Digital Divide?

One concern, even among many proponents of government 2.0, is the possibility that moving to online and mobile platforms will create a “digital divide” between those who have access to internet and mobile technology and those who do not.  Typically, commentators assume that this will tend to disenfranchise low-income and minority groups.  But an interesting survey by Pew Research suggests that gov 2.0 may actually help engage one minority group: Hispanics.

A survey last year by Pew Research found that more than 87 percent of English-speaking U.S. Hispanics owned a cell phone, as opposed to 80 percent of non-Hispanic whites, and 53 percent of them used mobile devices to access the Internet, compared to 33 percent of non-Hispanics. And, compared to the general U.S. population, Hispanics reportedly use their mobile phones more often and take advantage or more features on the devices.

…The growing mobile networks centered on civic engagement comprise of “feature phones,” a less expensive smartphone which still has text messaging, e-mail, mobile web and social media features, as well as smartphones.

In the past, this growing mobile community was called upon by organizations like HI to support immigration rallies in states across the nation and is credited with increasing attendance and enthusiasm.

You can read the full article here.

3 thoughts on “A Different Side to the Digital Divide?

    1. Davenport Institute Post author

      Thanks for raising the questions Alex!

      I think this is one of those situations where a lot depends on which research you’re looking at. I went back and realized that the article referenced here didn’t have a link to the study they were looking at, but after digging around on the Pew Research Center website I found a number of studies addressing this issue.

      This study from July 2010 suggested a higher use of cell phones among blacks and English-speaking Hispanics (they had no Spanish-language data). This article from CNN highlights a number of other Pew reports that found greater use of cell phones and cell phone features (including mobile internet).

      Still, as you noted, not all the research agrees. This survey of Latinos and Digital Technology (also conducted by Pew Research) paints a different picture. And it’s important to note that this study is more recent. Also, of course, none of these studies give much insight into what applications and access are being used for.

      Here on the Gov20Watch blog, I try to post stories from a broad range of perspectives and approaches. Some of these are controversial and some may not be well-supported, but the purpose is always to encourage conversation, and I am always happy to try to dig a bit deeper into stories that interest our readers or that make claims our readers find questionable. Please keep the questions coming!

  1. Pingback: [New Data] How can governments better engage the Hispanic population? - VideoMinutes.NET Blog

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