Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mobile Bridging Digital Divide

  In the early 1990s, the catchphrase "digital divide" was coined to reflect the differential access to, and use of, the Internet by different groups.  In the U.S., as access expanded to the point where there are few demonstrable divides in terms of having access to the Web remaining, usage of the phrase has shifted to suggest differences in actual use of the Internet.  There, a number of significant divides continue, including the elderly, some minority sub-groups, and lower-income consumers.  And for them, the primary reason provided for not using the Web is that they don't see it offering information or services that are valuable or relevant to them.  And half of them say the neither they or anyone in their household have used the Web.
  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 DemosOnline Media Daily
Mobile Video To Reach A Third of Consumers By 2016Mobile Marketing Daily
Pew Internet Project report - Why one in five U.S. adults doesn't use the Internet


  1. Mobile is definitely shrinking the divide between people who have access to the internet and people who do not. I would take it even farther to say that in the next 10-15 years having a home internet service will be obsolete. With 3G and 4G ever expanding you can access the web virtually anywhere. Now with tablet you can pay a monthly fee and have internet access everywhere 3/4G is accessible. These services make the use of a home internet subscription unnecessary unless you live out in the woods and don't get a 3/4G connection.

  2. The rapid expansion of mobile technology over the past decade is really more or less simplifying the internet to many of the users on the "other side" of the Digital Divide. I believe the "other side" of the Digital Divide really refers to the older generations who are still used to consuming their generation's forms of media. The internet is incredibly vast in its content, so younger users are more likely to have the drive and curiosity to explore that content. However, the rise of mobile apps really simplifies the amount of content on the internet and caters to the interests of the older generations by providing them with the content they are used to, but in a digital format.

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