President Obama’s SOTU address was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. He came out clearly reminded people what he had accomplished and what he felt needed to be done next. He also touched on the importance of bringing jobs back to the US and training people to be able to take open tech jobs. The one area I wished he would have covered more is the importance of creating 4G networks and how they can help close the digital divide . My podcast below talks about my thoughts on subject.
With the launch of Apple’s IBook textbook application a new era in learning has begun. Listen to my podcast where I explain that while the technology is game changing, not getting it to minorities and the inner cities could create a new digital divide. I believe a post from Time magazine paints an accurate picture of the worst case scenario:
Thus in the most frightening scenario, one could imagine a world where Apple’s textbooks serve only to increase the digital divide, and thus the achievement gap. In this scenario, there will be some students who are able to use the new textbooks, likely those at wealthy suburban schools where either the school or their parents can afford to buy them an iPad, while other students, most likely those in impoverished urban schools, are stuck using paper textbooks that have been handed down for years.
When you hear talk about the FCC creating plans to create equal levels of internet access for all, most of those plans don’t really take in to account how to bridge the divide in urban and rural areas for minorities. The government does not have the money to do it on their own. They also seem to take a general swipe approach to how to solve the broadband problem without taking into account that problem need to be solved in multiple ways for different groups. The two areas that I believe they are looking at all wrong.
There are areas of the country where the current infrastructure can not give it’s inhabitants access to current internet technology. Those areas are primarily rural areas and lower income urban areas. In both these causes the current wired internet products are not readily available and there is no short term plans to change that. Because of that limitation Both of those audiences have taken advantage of wireless to get their access Although the rural areas in some cases still struggle because currently most wires networks don’t reach all rural areas. The ATT /T-Mobile deal would have solved this problem for many of those areas but that is currently not moving forward. No one else has stepped up to offer a solution for this problem which leads me to have concerns that the people in these areas would be left behind.
Digital Literacy and Empowerment
People believe cost is the biggest barrier to increasing adoption. I don’t agree. I believe that the real issue is the lack of digital literacy among minorities which limits the ability to see the value they can get from broadband. The mobile device is a great example. Mobile usage among African Americans and Hispanics is growing at a rapid pace. We have come to understand the value that broadband wireless access adds to our lives in various areas ( education, Employment, healthcare, etc..) SO even in lower income areas you have seen growth in smartphone purchases because in the investment empowers those users various areas. I’ve seen in many times when I’ve spoken to large groups that once that light bulb moment occurs when the people in the room see how it creates value in their lives, the perception immediately changes.
If we really want to see Urban Digital Divide close then these are two areas we need to focus on and the private sector has to play a part for to happen quickly and we have to play a part for the value to be clear and obvious.
As a part of the CNN Black in America documentary I sat down with Soledad Obrien for a 1 on ! interview. This segment talks about why i feel there is a need for minority incubators.
My response to the following article on Entrepreneur.com “Creating an Ecosystem for Minority Entrepreneurs“
Whenever issues of diversity are discussed in certain areas our first response is usually to be angry at the fact that we are not being recognized for our current efforts or position in that current industry. When the harsh reality is that is were fully recognized or truly successful in having a significant impact in that given area the question of diversity would not have come up. So instead of being angry we should focus on what the plan is to solve the issues.
This has come up most recently due to the recent Black in America documentary I was involved in. People have been up in arms about the media and people in the doc not recognizing minorities in tech past in current. But I believe focusing on that is short sided. we should look to use these opportunities to create plans on how change the current status Quot. How to put an plan in place that puts more of us in the pipeline to be able to attain these jobs. A plan that educates our youth on how to turn their ideas into real products using themselves as the resource. These type of actions will create real change. So don’t tell me your upset about the lack of diversity unless your committed to being a part of the plan.
If you have always wanted the chance to audit classes from the top schools in the country. Now is your chance. Several top schools have offered classes for anyone to view free online. This is just another example of all the things at our disposal online. Share this with a friend tonight so that we can continue to close the divide. See more here. http://mashable.com/2011/11/11/free-online-education/
I just saved $600 on a flight by booking it online. I stay at 4 start hotels for under $200 a night because i can access services like hotwire and HotelTonight on my mobile phone. Those are just a few examples of how access to the internet can give you significant savings.
But sadly many minorities cannot take advantage of these savings because they don’t have internet access. As the benefits to broadband access increase, so does the divide between the people who have access and those who do not. Digital literacy and access is key to closing the divide so that the people who need these savings the most can take advantage of these benefits.