We Must End the (Reverse) Digital Divide!

by on January 12, 2010 · 5 comments

The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released new “Internet, broadband, and cell phone statistics” based on surveys conducted in late 2009. The survey, among the most respected industry, reveals the shocking racism of the cell phone industry, which is clearly discriminating against historically disadvantaged European-Americans: 62% of Hispanics and 59% of non-Hispanic blacks are “wireless Internet users” compared to only 52% of white Americans.

Congress must act to correct this clear racial travesty. Since it appears that white Americans still use home broadband at higher rates, the clear answer is to create an “Internet Truth & Reconciliation Commission” responsible for reallocating (by force, if necessary) un-cool home broadband connections to more mobile minority users and much “hipper” wireless connections (which are more popular among the technologically trendsetting 18-29 crowd) to coolness-challenged white users until a perfect numerical parity is reached.  Only then will digital Racial Justice be achieved for all Americans.

Digital divide - Pew

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradweikel Brad Weikel

    Well, this is a some great link-bait schlock.

    Some of the more obvious problems:

    First, the “divide” would probably be significantly narrowed if race were cross-tabulated with age. Mobile Internet numbers skew heavily towards younger populations, and the 2008 median age of white Americans (38.2) is significantly older than that of African Americans (31.4) and Hispanic Americans (27.7). If white American's weren't so blessed with better health outcomes and a longer life expectancy, we wouldn't have so many over-the-hill Luddites pulling down our iPhone stats.

    Second, a few more points get shaved off by the Rural/Suburban/Urban factor: relative to white Americans, the Hispanic population is skewed enormously urban, and the African American population skews somewhat urban. Obviously, mobile Internet usage is higher in urban areas for reasons that have nothing to do with race: coverage and use cases.

    Third, even without the first two points, you've got to remember that mobile internet is a leapfrog technology, which allows individuals who have not historically had home computers and home broadband to skip from 1980 straight to 2010, without wasting their time trying to slog through the '90s. It shouldn't be surprising that mobile numbers could take hold in populations with lower broadband rates, and this should be seen as both a modest marker of success of the mobile Internet and an indictment of the failures of the broadband era, not as a chance to throw a cheap shot at the digital divide (unless I'm misreading your tone).

    Finally, as in many issues of social justice in America, race in the digital divide is in part (but not entirely) a proxy for poverty and education. The categories with the greatest disparities in your chart, on both the mobile and the broadband side, are in the area of income and education level. While mobile has flattened the graph quite a bit, there is still quite obviously an enormous divide and a lot of work still to be done.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradweikel Brad Weikel

    Oops – I swear I meant to delete the “schlock” sentence before I posted it. #gutreactionfail
    I disagree with you guys all the time, but usually respectfully. :)

  • http://www.sleepcamel.net Brad Weikel

    This is obviously satirical, but I also think it represents a problematic line of thinking that doesn't hold up to closer inspection of the numbers.

    Some of the more obvious problems:

    First, the “divide” would probably be significantly narrowed if race were cross-tabulated with age. Mobile Internet numbers skew heavily towards younger populations, and the 2008 median age of white Americans (38.2) is significantly older than that of African Americans (31.4) and Hispanic Americans (27.7). If white American's weren't so blessed with better health outcomes and a longer life expectancy, we wouldn't have so many over-the-hill Luddites pulling down our iPhone stats.

    Second, a few more points get shaved off by the Rural/Suburban/Urban factor: relative to white Americans, the Hispanic population is skewed enormously urban, and the African American population skews somewhat urban. Obviously, mobile Internet usage is higher in urban areas for reasons that have nothing to do with race: coverage and use cases.

    Third, even without the first two points, you've got to remember that mobile internet is a leapfrog technology, which allows individuals who have not historically had home computers and home broadband to skip from 1980 straight to 2010, without wasting their time trying to slog through the '90s. It shouldn't be surprising that mobile numbers could take hold in populations with lower broadband rates, and this should be seen as both a modest marker of success of the mobile Internet and an indictment of the failures of the broadband era, not as a chance to throw a cheap shot at the digital divide (unless I'm misreading your tone).

    Finally, as in many issues of social justice in America, race in the digital divide is in part (but not entirely) a proxy for poverty and education. The categories with the greatest disparities in your chart, on both the mobile and the broadband side, are in the area of income and education level. While mobile has flattened the graph quite a bit, there is still quite obviously an enormous divide and a lot of work still to be done.

  • http://www.sleepcamel.net Brad Weikel

    Ooh, Discus let's you edit comments now! That's cool.

  • Pingback: Income and its Effects on the Digital Divide « The Digital Divide

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