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Mobile phones close the digital gap for Latinos

LatinaLista — In this day and age, everyone owns that one item that if it was taken away mañana would wreak havoc in their lives. Can you guess what it is for Latinos? Hint: It has to do with technology.

If you guessed a computer, you would be wrong.

When it comes to home broadband access (getting online from a home computer), Latinos are dead last in that category — just slightly less than Native Americans. (Asian-Americans lead with home broadband access with 69 percent; whites at 68 percent; African Americans at 50 percent; Native Americans at 46 percent and Latinos trail at 45 percent.) The main reason is the cost of the equipment and service.

For Latinos, there is another item that is no longer an item of convenience but a necessity — the mobile phone. In a new report by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, TRENDS IN LATINO MOBILE PHONE USAGE, it’s revealed that Latinos aren’t just early adopters of mobile usage but “full embracers” using it to its full capacity.

Mobile phones have a 91 percent penetration rate into the Latino market. This doesn’t mean Latinos are the most likely group to be using the mobile phone to call mami or papi — though the vast majority of us do check-in on a regular basis. No, mobile phones are used as computers-on-the-go.

According to a Pew survey,English-speaking Latinos access the Internet via mobile phones at a higher rate than their white counterparts. For instance, in 2010, only 33% of whites accessed the Internet on their mobile phones compared to 51% of English-speaking Latinos. 30% of whites sent or received e-mail on their mobile phones compared to 47% of English-speaking Latinos. 23% of whites sent or received instant messages compared to 49% of English-speaking Latinos.

Finally, 13% of whites used their mobile phones to post a photo or video online compared to 25% of English-speaking

That kind of usage means the mobile phone is being used in ways the developers never imagined. From engaging in civic and social justice issues to keeping up with social service programs, receiving health advice and job leads, not to mention, accessing social media platforms and sharing videos and photos online, the mobile phone has become a necessary tool for Latinos who would otherwise be left behind in this digital age.

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