To make no bones about it I have intentionally released this piece on Martin Luther King Day. Before we dive into the piece, a lot of the major blog sites have “taken the day off” to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day. I would challenge any of those who published on an abbreviated schedule or took the day off to celebrate Martin Luther King Day to blog tomorrow about what kind of events you attended to celebrate the life of the good doctor. Did you go to a rally? A church service? Watch the history channel? Or go to the mall with the kids?
Me, I spent most of the day working and researching the rest of this piece. I also spent some time researching two people in the Civil Rights movement that I have had the privelege of working with at one time or another, Radio One personality Joe Madison, and a friend from high school Dedrick Muhammed. I was the Producer of the Joe Madison show in 1993 at WRC DC. The last time I actually saw Muhammed speak was at an inauguration shoulder event in Gaithersburg Maryland celebrating Dr. King and focusing on what I touched on in an earlier post about how the “I Have A Dream” speech wasn’t even called that.
So now to the heart of the piece. Android and The Digital Divide
Although the terminology Digital Divide has been used to describe difference scenarios for the point of this piece and here in the United States we are talking about the concept brought to attention in the early 90’s that showed there was a perceived ethnic dividing line between people with access to technology and people without. Moreover it later became a term for those with broadband full access to the internet and those without.
On a global scale we think of Digital Divide as emerging countries and of course those developed countries.
Both Al Gore and Bill Clinton used the term Digital Divide in speeches for their presidential campaigns in the 90’s however with all that we’ve heard in the past few years about the increase in smartphones, Android devices and Social media I have gone increasingly curious as to where we currently stand in the Digital Divide.
I remember while I was producing the Joe Madison show for WRC radio in Washington DC he and activist Dick Gregory spoke about the digital divide and to just lay it out without beating around the bush their claim, and the feeling of a lot of Americans at the time, was that white people had more access to technology, internet and communications than black people. This was almost 18 years ago though and times have changed at a rapid rate. I always felt it was more of a socioeconmic divide than anything. I knew plenty of black people, asian people and white people in upper middle class neighborhoods who were just starting to get cable internet. Computers were still pretty expensive, and smartphones weren’t even in the picture. I remember riding the subway to work at WRC with some kind of Radius or Radium internet that basically looked like a walkie talkie strapped to my 10 pound Toshiba laptop and maybe connected at 33kbps. Yes TECHNOLOGY!
Fast forward to today and without coding my contacts I can tell you first hand that I know at least 100 black people with Android phones and another 100 with iPhones. From my radio days, and dj days I have a few thousand twitter friends and followers who are black, brown or other and even recently there was a study that proved that Twitter itself was more popular among blacks, hispanics and urban dwellers than any other segment.
So where does the Android fit into this?
We just recently published a story about the latest Canalys findings and that fragment was good for Android. Canalys found that by giving away Android it allowed manufacturers to make smartphones for less and in fact get technology, internet access and social media into the hands of just about everyone.
Boost Mobile, Virgin and Cricket all have Android offerings. Cricket has been very proactive in Android and prides themselves in really knowing their market. In talking with Cricket’s Matt Stoeiber, Cricket as a whole works at finding what their prepaid customers want and how to deliver it at the best cost to Cricket and the customer.
A recent article in the Washington Post showed that with pricing coming down and the options among prepaid carriers among other things, mobile is making the digital divide as we are referring to it in this article, diminish. The same Washington Post piece does question whether the engagement quality is different enough to consider it still a divide from those with home access to technology and internet vs mobile.
I would say that yes it is different however with more and more Android devices out there, even folks like myself are using desktops and laptops less and less and a mobile device more and more for day to day internet access. Companies like Cricket are embracing the mobile segment and it’s impact on the digital divide as they just recently announced their new Muve Music plans that allow unlimited full song music downloads with unlimited data, text and calling for $55 a month.
The influencers in the tight knit Android community are from all different ethnicities. One walk through any of the three halls at CES or the hotels you’d scratch your head and say “Digital What?”