A new report released today by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Digital Nation: 21st Century America’s Progress Toward Universal Broadband Internet Access, found that of all the ethnic groups, Latinos are the least likely to be on the Internet.
Asian non-Hispanics led all other groups with 67.3 percent using broadband at home, with White non-Hispanics second in usage (65.7); followed by Black non-Hispanics (45.9); Native Americans (42.6) and Hispanics (39.7).
If there is a silver lining, the same report, when comparing figures from 2007 to 2009, show that there was actually a 10.5 increase in usage among Latinos. In 2007, 29.2 percent were online compared to 39.7 in 2009.
The study cites a number of reasons why the discrepancy in usage might exist. From a feeling of it’s “not needed” to it being “too expensive” to either not having an adequate or any computer at all are the reasons researchers cited as the most common.
Yet, they forgot one reason that has a lot to do with why some Latinos don’t get online — they see it as being an English dominant environment. It’s no wonder that most studies analyzing Hispanic Internet usage find that most Latinos who go online are either English dominant or true bilinguals.
In analysis like this, it underscores the need to break out the Latino respondents and identify just who they are — i.e. Spanish-dominant or third generation? — since each has a different set of needs and challenges. It does the whole Latino community a disservice when everyone is lumped together and assumed to share the same characteristics.
While the language may initially be seen as a problem, especially if browsing U.S.-based web sites, more and more web sites are getting Spanish companion sites, not to mention, sites from Spanish-speaking countries are always a good option when trying to find information.
But there’s no getting around the fact that more Latinos are less educated and, in turn, are working jobs that are low paying. Since more Latinos are considered impoverished, it makes sense that there would be the feeling that a computer is too expensive or not have a computer at all.
Most all Latinos understand the growing necessity of having a computer, but if the service and the computer are out of reach for cash-strapped Latino families then it’s obvious that more programs are needed to bridge this digital divide.
For anyone who wants to find a better job, take an online class, get needed information that enhances the quality of their life, a computer is a necessity in the home.
If the Latino community is to make the needed strides in self-improvement to contribute to their families, their local communities and the economy, then it would be a wise decision to outfit every family who doesn’t have a computer with one and realize that to get ahead in the world everyone needs to know how to use a computer and the Internet.