National Public Radio reported on a story about the ways minority students have been bridging the digital divide. In the 1990’s President Clinton and legislators tried to address the divide between the digital literacy rates of Hispanics and African Americans through attempts to bring the Internet into every classroom. Over the years, Internet usage has increased in classrooms, but it is not close to universal. A digital divide still exists, particularly in the area of digital literacy, which negatively affects minorities in education and the workplace. However, through the widespread use of mobile devices, minorities have been able to begin to close the gap.
Some more relevant points from NPR’s story:
· Latinos and African American youth are consuming media from digital sources at a rapidly increasing rate which is much higher than Asians and Whites.
· Technological access has increased greatly over the last 15 years resulting in Latinos and other minorities being just as likely to use social networking and cell phones.
· Mobile devices are being used for more tasks. Instead of just being devices used to connect voice calls, users are now consuming and producing information content via digital media sources.
Latinos and African Americans would not be able to benefit from the digital age as much without mobile broadband. Access is still a barrier to broadband via wired sources, but access via mobile devices has proven to be an affordable alternative. It can connect Latinos and other groups that have been left behind to the Internet and creates more social and economic opportunities. This has shown the power that wireless service providers and consumers have in finding solutions to minimize the digital divide.
Policymakers and legislators do have a key function. Increased demand for mobile broadband, especially from historically underserved groups like Latinos, makes finding solutions for spectrum limitations critical. At this time, mobile broadband and 4G technology is showing the most potential to reach individuals. Without more spectrum, minority groups will be at risk of falling behind in the digital age. More spectrum and better coverage will enhance the digital literacy of Hispanic youth. Therefore, the FCC and lawmakers must focus their attention on ensuring that adequate spectrum is available and that wireless broadband service is accessible nationwide.
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