Digital Divide Could Leave Latinos Further Behind in Education, Jobs

Jul 27, 2011 by




Panelists at a Tuesday morning workshop held by the National Council of suggested that lack of broadband Internet access could hinder the progress of Latinos living in the United States. The panelists, drawn largely from the world telecommunications, warned that Latinos and other minorities risk falling behind in educational and economic attainment if the so-called “digital divide” is not bridged.

The workshop, “Latinos and the Internet: Jobs, Education, Empowerment and the Digital Economy,” was part of the final day of NCLR’s “Embrace NOW” conference at the Washington Marriott-Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Henry Rivera, board chairman of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Partnership, cited a 2011 survey from the Federal Communications Commission which found that one-third of people in the United States do not use broadband Internet. This statistic is more pronounced, he said, among minorities and non-English speaking Latinos.

“If you don’t have Internet access in your home, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities,” he said.

Rivera said that, by and large, Latinos feel that they simply can’t afford broadband access. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed cited cost as a major problem. A fewer amount of those surveyed cited a lack of digital literacy. They simply don’t feel comfortable using a computer, he said.

A smaller, though sizable percentage—19 percent—said that they did not feel that the Internet was relevant to their lives.

“Nineteen percent of folks said that, ‘There’s nothing on there that I want, it doesn’t mean anything to me, so why should I give money to the company?’ ” Rivera said.

Rivera said that this misperception about the Internet’s value is one of the main reasons why simply tackling the problem of cost is not sufficient. Reaching out to rural areas, where Latinos tend to gravitate because of jobs, is essential.

“We need to look for solutions at the local and community level to cultivate a social infrastructure for net adoption,” he said.

Rivera said that as the U.S. moves to a more Internet-centered economy, critical services—such as health care access, paying bills and even the ability to contact family and friends—will be offered online.

“If you don’t know how to use it, you should learn,” Rivera said. “You simply cannot afford not to be online,” he said.

Forty percent of Hispanics in the U.S. were born elsewhere, and they are beginning to use smart phones, Facebook, and Skype to contact relatives or even seek entertainment in their native language, said Jason Llorenz, executive director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership.

“We’re a mobile population to begin with,” he said. “The Internet has allowed Hispanics to be extremely mobile.”

But Llorenz said that Latinos have yet to take advantage of the Internet’s potential as a tool of mobilization and outreach. He alluded to the Arab Spring, which gestated on social media sites like Facebook, as a possible model.

“Hispanics will organize using technology, and when we do, we will be a force to be reckoned with,” he said.

During the workshop, an English-language version of a public service announcement co-sponsored by NCLR, BBOC and LULAC was played.

via Forum: Digital Divide Could Leave Latinos Further Behind in Education, Jobs.

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