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Home » Digital Divide » Broadband and Mobile Innovation Impacting Digital Divide for Hispanics, Recent Studies Suggest

By Enrique Cortez
June 3, 2011

A spate of recent studies examining the societal impact of technological innovations provides a revealing look at how the Hispanic community is accessing the Internet.  The data, while uncovering the intriguing trend of Hispanics’ growing adoption rate of broadband and wireless technology-driven applications, raises the question of what this zealous embrace of online apps and mobile services by the Hispanic community means to the Digital Divide.

Two new studies from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project show Hispanics leading in Internet use for specific communication purposes.  The first survey illustrates that Hispanics were the biggest users of the Internet to make phone calls.  Of those surveyed, 27 percent of Hispanics reported using video telephone services such as Skype or Internet services such as a Vonage plan to make calls, compared with 21 percent of both blacks and whites.

Overall, the findings showed that nearly 20 percent of all American adults now use the Internet to make phone calls and 24 percent of Internet users have made phone calls online.  Interestingly, the survey also found that Internet phone users were more likely to be 18-29 years old, college educated and earning more than $75,000 a year.

“There is little doubt that the popularity of online phone calling has picked up over time for several reasons,” the report states. “It is free or cheaper than other types of phone calling; it is enabled on many handheld devices like smartphones and tablet computers; more and more meetings and classroom activities exploit online phone connections along with video capabilities; and more families and friends are building online calls into their communications streams.”

The second survey examines the mounting use of Twitter by adult Web users showing that Blacks and Hispanics continue to sign up for the micro-blogging site at higher rates than the general population.   The findings showed that 13 percent of online adults identify as Twitter users with 25 percent of Blacks and 19 percent of Hispanics on Twitter, compared to 9 percent of non-Hispanic whites.  The study also showed that 95 percent of Twitter users own a mobile phone and half use the device to access the service.

As HTTP has previously discussed , recent surveys have shown Hispanics have benefited greatly from mobile technology and rely on their mobile phones as their primary connection to the Web at a far greater rate than the rest of the population. These reports have repeatedly shown that Hispanics are on the forefront of adopting the latest digital communications tools.

With 87 percent of Hispanics owning a cell phone and using it more often as well as utilizing more digital features than any other group, it is clear that further examination is needed on the impact mobile broadband is making on the Digital Divide.  If Hispanics are logging-on through their phones in more and more numbers, what can the Hispanic-serving community as well as private industry do to ensure that those areas of great concern – digital literacy, access, etc. – are addressed so that the Hispanic community takes full advantage of all the opportunities to be gained online?  Developing an answer to this question will take new thinking and strategies developed on the possibilities made real through mobile broadband platforms.

Enrique Cortez is President and Founder of Enitial Advanced Communications.

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