The Digital Divide: Are African American’s Being Left Behind?

People of color may consume a lot of technology but oftentimes we fail to use it in a way that moves us forward

(Image: ThinkStock)

Chances are you’ve all heard about the “digital divide” but not everyone is exactly sure as to what that actually is. Wikipedia defines it as the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communications technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities.

Basically, as the Internet and digital technology continues to mature these technologies will become more integrated into every aspect of our business and personal lives: as communication platforms, mediums for business commerce, and news source. But are African Americans being left behind in the digital age? If so, mobile technology may help bridge the gap. According to the Pew Poll (July 2010), 51% percent of Hispanics and 46% of African Americans use their cell phones to access the Internet, compared with 33% of White Americans. Forty-seven percent of Latinos and 41% of African Americans use their phones for e-mail, compared with 30% of White Americans.

The African American community must take personal responsibility to ensure that we continue to stay current as it relates to digital media literacy. Just to be clear, the digital divide is greater than having access to Facebook or sending personal text messages. It’s being able to use the Internet and digital technology to communicate, access information, and create commerce. In last week’s blog post, 8 Mobile Apps That Will Increase Your Business Productivity, I discussed mobile apps that you could use to run your business from your hip. This time around I want to tackle tech areas that lack diversity

1) Tech Startups: One percent of tech startups have Black founders (87% White Americans and 12% Asians). There’s a new frontier of Black tech entrepreneurs that are being birthed through the New Me Accelerator. You can follow the process this summer on NewMeConference.com.

2) Social Media/Digital Conferences: How many African Americans attend social/digital media conferences to stay current on the trends in digital technology? There’s a lot of debate over the lack of diversity of the speakers and participants at these conferences. Recently, there was a blog post written by Jay Baer, author of The Now Revolution where he addresses the issue of social media and diversity.

I can go on a rant about there not being enough tech startups founded by African Americans or there not being enough African American speakers at the social/digital media conferences, but I’d rather challenge our community to create a pipeline of qualified people and companies that demand the attention of the tech community and provide access and opportunities to close the digital divide.

How should African Americans use technology? Technology and the Internet are tools that can be the great equalizers. Let’s focus on the areas we can control by educating ourselves on the latest digital technology, mobile devices, and applications to expand our presence in business and in the digital space.

I’ll get things started with the following list of resources to identify African Americans in technology.

  • New Me Accelerator: The first accelerator for minority-led tech startups launching in the summer of 2011 in Silicon Valley.
  • Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo: This year’s Black Enterprise Entrepreneur’s Conference will include a lot of useful social/digital media.
  • Brand Camp University: One of the most diversified social media conferences.
  • Black Web 2.0: A great destination for African-American’s in technology and new media.
  • Quora: A great resource to query who some notable Black founders, entrepreneurs, and executives in Silicon Valley are.
  • 28-Days of Diversity: 28-Days of Diversity is a list generated by Wayne Sutton highlighting quality minorities in the tech space.

Hajj Flemings is a weekly technology columnist for BlackEnterprise.com, founder of Brand Camp University, and the author of the book Brand YU Life. As a speaker and brand strategist, he works with some of the largest brands, covering the topics of branding and digital technology. Check back next Wednesday for his next column. Until then, continue the conversation on his BE Insider page at beinsider.ning.com/HajjEFlemings.