A new Pew report suggests that the continuing diffusion of connected mobile devices is making the Internet more accessible, particularly for older and lower-income consumers.
“The rise of mobile is changing the story,” according to Kathryn Zickuhr, a research specialist at the Pew Internet Project, and co-author of its latest research report. “Groups that have traditionally been on the other side of the digital divide in basic Internet access are using wireless connections to go online.”Mobile is expanding individual access to the Web, and through apps and features, providing a wide range of information products and services to meet virtually any interest or need. Mobile's high diffusion (88% have a cell phone, compared to 57% with a laptop) not only makes Web content and info services highly visible, demonstrable, and accessible. The Pew report indicates that almost two-thirds of mobile/cell users have used them to go online, and that many of the challenged "Divide" groups, minorities, those with no college, and lower income levels say that their phone is their main source of Internet access.
Another report, from eMarketer, holds out the promise of further narrowing the Digital Divide. They suggest that the rapid proliferation of smartphones and tablets, combined with improved broadband access (through 3G and 4G cell networks and broadband Wifi, will drive a sharp increase in multimedia streaming on mobile. They see the use of mobile streaming video will grow from about a quarter of mobile customers to about 42% in 2016. Overall, that means that one-third of all Americans will be watching video on handsets.
What's important about this from a use/Divide perspective is that the multimedia streaming content is mostly entertainment content - content that is familiar, valued, and relevant to all groups. And for many minority groups, the Web is likely to offer access to more of that content than is available from traditional media outlets, driving up its use, and shrinking divides.
Sources - Mobile Smooths Digital Divide For Some Demos, Online Media Daily
Mobile Video To Reach A Third of Consumers By 2016, Mobile Marketing Daily
Pew Internet Project report - Why one in five U.S. adults doesn't use the Internet