The Haves and Have nots…or maybe not.

Every year there is a huge user conference (the biggest software user conference in the world, actually) at in San Francisco, CA. It’s everything from dog and pony show to entertainment to politics (Will.I.Am. AND Hillary Clinton performed/spoke last year) to educational work sessions.  Last year I had the pleasure of attending a session that focused on the digital divide between African & South American countries and the rest of the world. One of the things that really stuck out to me in that session was the fact that while most people in these countries lack access to computers, 75% have access to smart phones.

When we look at the idea of “information access”, it is difficult these days to separate technology from that. One statistic that stood out in my mind from the asynchronous session was that 15% of Black households were “offline” as opposed to 14% of White households.  However, according to the 2013 Census, only 61.3% of Black households have a computer with internet access (as opposed to 77.4% of white households). So what does this actually mean? Well going back to my earlier paragraph, it points to the fact that while many households don’t have computers, they do have smart phones. They have other ways of getting “online”. And so while there is a huge disparity between White and Black households when it comes to owning a computer, the gap is significantly closed when we strip out the media consumption device of “Computer” and focus only on online access.

One of my favorite examples of this is the phenomenon known as “Black Twitter”. Since so many Black households are now “online”, we are seeing a subculture that really results from the media consumption avenue of Twitter, which not so coincidentally is primarily accessed via a smartphone. Wikipedia has a pretty succinct definition for those that are unfamiliar. But it’s a great example of how the digital divide is getting more narrow due to media convergence. I feel like I used a lot of random class concepts in this blog so apologies- sometimes I get into my own head a bit too much! But those were my thoughts on the topic for this week. I hope everyone can see the connections as I can.


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