Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Closing the Digital Divide

The digital divide has always been used to describe the haves and have nots on the Internet. The Internet always has been actively used by white and Asian-American in significant numbers while at the same time Internet use has surpassed many African-American users. It was this digital divide "that many experts had worried would be a crippling disadvantage in achieving success." Yet, the digital divide has begun to shrink as more African- Americans have been logging on.

Originally, the cause for the digital divide was sheer economics. The cost of the technology to access the Internet surapssed those African American consumers who were at the "lower end" of the economic scale, effectively keeping them off the information superhighway. With the proliferation of inexpensive computers to hit the market and the ability to access the Internet from almost every convievable consumer electronic from cellphones to handhelds to video game systems are one of the main causes for the decrease in the divide. Also as the Internet changes from being used solely as a place to gather information and more into a hub of entertainment and interaction, it is enticing

It is not suprising that the majority of those African-Americans crossing the digital divide tend to be young people. With the increased presence of computers and the Internet in schools it is easy to see how this trend can emerge. The youth, however, are not the only members of the African American community that are gaining access to the Internet. According to a Pew survey the number of African Americans who are using the Internet has increase 38 percent since 1998.

This increase in Internet usage has shruken the digital divide, however, there seems to be a growing divide in the difference between how the different races use the Internet.
According to Marlon Orozco, program manager at Intel Computer Clubhouse Network and organization designed to teach young people how to use the Internet, says that "Instant messaging and downloading music is one thing, but he would like to see black and Hispanic teenagers use the Internet in more challenging ways, like building virtual communities or promoting their businesses."

"The type and meaningful quality of access is, in some ways, a more challenging divide that remains," says Vicky Rideout, vice president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Even though the digital divide may seem to be closing, usage is not just an issue anymore. The next step in eliminating the digital divide should be to help educate and provide access so those in the African American community that are just begining their foray into cyberspace will have the opportunity to become comfortable and competent with the Internent. With the constant changing of the capabilities of the Internet it is imperative that this issue be addressed before this subtle divide becomes and irreparable gap.

Digital Divide Closing as Blacks Turn to Internet

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