We are grateful to our speakers, Fard Johnmar, Founder of Envision Solutions, LLC, and Alejandro Garcia-Barbon, Senior Technical Advisor of IQ Solutions and the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) Drugs + HIV> Learn the Link Campaign (more on this in next week’s post), who shared their knowledge and experiences with us and over 100 of our Federal colleagues and their grantees.
Is there a “digital divide”?First of all, what do we mean by the digital divide? At HIV.gov, we’ve been using the following adaptation of Wikipedia’s “digital divide definition: “the gap between people with, and without, effective access to digital and information technology.” In this definition, access is different than effective access – for example, use of a slow dial-up Internet connection at a public computer is less effective than a high-speed Internet connection at home.Fard told us there are several things we need to look at when considering who is online. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 73% of all adults in the U.S. are using the Internet or e-mail. There is a gap between White (75%) and Black (59%) users of these technologies, but it has been decreasing over the past several years. Eighty percent of English-speaking Hispanic adults are using both technologies. And 90% of all adults ages 18-29 are using e-mail or the Web. If your target audience is youth, Black, White or Asian many are clearly Internet savvy.
So where do the biggest gaps in Internet use remain? There is a divide between Spanish-dominant Hispanic adults and other population groups, though 32% are online. As Fard showed us, the other important piece of the puzzle is the effective Internet access piece – and looking at access to high-speed Internet connection shows gaps based on income, race and location (rural vs. suburban or urban). Lack of access to high-speed Internet doesn’t mean people aren’t online, Fard cautioned us, but it might mean different populations use different new media tools in different ways.
How are communities of color using new media?Fard shared statistics from eMarketer that suggest African American and Hispanic adults are more likely to use certain new media technologies than Whites, such as social networking sites, online chat rooms, and instant messaging.
|African American||Hispanic||Non-Hispanic white|
|Reading and writing e-mail||64%||66%||81%|
|Visiting social networking sites||33%||32%||20%|
|Sending greeting cards||29%||31%||26%|
|Participating in chat rooms||22%||22%||10%|
Note: n=1,038 African American, 766 Hispanic and 901 non-Hispanic white; ages 16+; activities done frequently or occasionally. Source: Yankelovich, "2007/2008 MONITOR Multicultural Marketing Study," provided to eMarketer, September 17, 2007A study by Envision Solutions found that 45% of Hispanics and 40% of Blacks as well as 37% of Whites had doubted a medical provider’s opinion or diagnosis because it conflicted with information they had read on the Internet. As Fard said “we know that people of color are not only going online to learn about health topics but they’re being influenced by information provided by what we call Dr. Web.” People are using the information they find online to make important decisions about their health – so we need to be there with good tools and information!