Cell phones are helping to breach the gap in terms of access to the internet between whites and ethnic groups such as African Americans and Latinos in the United States, according to a new study. The report from the Pew Hispanic Centre, suggests that Hispanics and African Americans are much more likely to access the internet from cell phones rather than from home computers, indicating that cell phones are helping to beat the “digital divide” in internet access, as it has been termed. The difference remains telling, however, with only two thirds of adult Hispanics and African Americans using the internet in 2010, as opposed to seventy five percent of Caucasians, but the gap is narrowing thanks cell phones.
Cathie Norris, Regents Professor in the Department of Learning Technologies at the University of Northern Texas, suggests that the reason for the narrowing gap is simple – cell phones are cheaper than computers. “You get the most access for the least amount of money,” she says. This argument appears to be the most widespread, yet others are unconvinced that it tells the whole story. “The conventional wisdom is that it’s all about money, that’s why they’re more likely to access the internet from a cell phone,” notes Gretchen Livingston, a senior researcher at the Pew Hispanic Centre who also served as the lead author of the report, “but there’s something else going on. Because even we control for income at those lower levels, Latinos are still more likely to be dependant on cell phones than whites for internet access”.