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.
ATT held a hackathon in Vegas during CES this week. The event connected developers with the business teams at ATT to help then great the next generation of great mobile apps. Check out the highlights in the video below:
The AT&T merger has been the talk of the Internet since it was announced. Groups like Free Press immediately jumped in (which was no surprise) to make claims that this merger will bring the end of competition but if you have seen the sprint commercials lately you realize that it’s having the opposite effect. The one huge positive about this deal that no one seems to be highlighting is what this means for connecting minorities and people in rural areas to the Internet. The problem is highlighted in inner cities on a regular basis. for example an article in the sun times quotes ” A 2009 study by the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Iowa found that 40 percent of all Chicagoans have little or no Internet access. Surveys showed that one in four Chicagoans are completely offline and another 15 percent have limited access.”
The same article highlights that the Black Caucus sees that void and is getting involved to make sure that needs of African Americans are served. By this group being involved and pushing the to make sure things like free or reduced-rate Internet access is available for the digitally disadvantaged. With this group pushing for the interest of their constituents and the end to end coverage in places like Mississippi, S. Carolina, Michigan and West Virginia. So while you hear some groups make “claims” that this deal is bad for everyone. The “reality” is that benefits are real for minorities and groups like the black caucus are making sure we get the equality we have been longing for.
The South By Southwest festival in Austin Texas has become the Launchpad for startups over the last few years with it’s unique ability to take a company from unknown to the next hot thing over the course of a few days. With its Multitude of events spread out across the city, it provides a unique scaling exercise for any start-up focused on real time communication and location. The most notable of the companies to experience the success of this conference are Twitter and Foursquare but since then others have had similar success. If you have read any article leading up to Friday’s start then you already know that the driving theme of this year’s conference is group-messaging apps. New start-ups like Groupme, Beluga, Fast Society and Eightbit are looking to unseat big players like foursquare and Twitter as the Go to app.
While I think that space has quickly become over crowded, I also think that the key thing here that people may be missing is that this conference is also showing that the mobile web is the future. The common denominator for all of these apps is that almost all of their activity will take place on a mobile device. Their level of success will actually depend on it. Gone are the days where people keep laptops open while they sit in conference sessions. Smart phones and tablets will now replace them. (Given the Ipad 2 launch this Friday I’d be curious to know how many devices will be purchased in the Austin area this weekend)
The mobile web is taking center stage and I actually believe can truly be considered mainstream. This will continue to evolve as we do things like share private moments with products like Path and aspiring business owners continue to increasingly sell their wares anywhere with products like Square and many other products enter and change different aspects our lives. The mobile device will continue to be the epicenter of this activity as we move into the future. But based on what’s about to happen at SXSW, the future is NOW
Every year when we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King , we take stock ( or we should be) in how far we’ve come to achieving the dream of equality the Dr. King had so many years ago. And we each year I believe we take a few steps forward and a step back. On one hand I firmly believe that as African Americans we have more opportunities for success and empowerment today than ever but that we also don’t take advantage of them in the way we should. I recently came across an article that asked the very question I’m asking here. Social Media and our access to it through mobile technology has given us more reach and influence then ever and while the digital divide may not be as wide was in year’s past. The divide in digital literacy becomes even wider. As technology continues to become more of an enabler in our lives how we can break the cultural perceptions that keep so many of us from taking advantage of the opportunities that the internet makes available to us. If we truly want to empower the next generation to continue to fulfill the dream then we have to make use of the tools that right in front of us.
I don’t drink coffee, but my wife has me get her Starbucks almost daily. For those of you that frequent Starbucks, you know that sometimes the line is out the door, so I was excited when I read this story about how Starbucks has just rolled out a mobile payments service nationwide at their stores. I immediately thought not only about how much time I can save with this during the daily Starbucks runs, but more importantly, what this means to the future of commerce. Having the ability to complete transactions with your smartphone eliminates you having to carry your debit card everywhere and also makes that information more secure.
I’m excited to see how the Starbucks mobile payments service helps other people and more importantly, how it helps move me through the line.
One word sums up the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that commenced last week in Las Vegas, showcasing the future of consumer technologies: Wireless. With devices of all shapes and sizes making their debut on the show floor, it was obvious to anyone walking the booths that the majority of the new products include a component of wireless technology. As our world becomes more and more reliant on new offerings that depend on mobile technology, it is important to remember that such products are only made possible by the “invisible infrastructure,” on which they depend, as FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski so properly phrased it during a speech at the show.
It sometimes becomes easy to forget the connection between public policy decisions, innovations in the labs, and end-user, consumer electronics that we buy in the store or purchase online. When thinking about the coolest new product for the holidays, for example, one does not think about where and why it was developed and how it is able to function. Over the past year, I have been actively engaged on Internet regulatory issues because of their significant impact on our everyday lives and the impact that such decisions could have on the enrichment potential of many Americans, particularly those living in underserved communities. I think that even policymakers themselves sometimes get lost in debates that don’t have tangible results, but that is precisely what was on display at CES last week.
All aspects of the technology industry converge at events such as CES, where attendees, decisions makers, the media and a variety of businesses and corporations get to prominently see the direction in which our digital society is moving.
While many didn’t attend the public policy panels taking place off the show floor (wouldn’t you rather be checking out LG’s newest “smart” appliances for the home, or testing out Motorola’s new Xoom tablet), those that did were able to connect Washington decisions to the broad technology industry, its explosive innovation and unending consumer offerings. 3D TVs continued to be featured, new smartphones were unveiled, most compatible for the commercial release of 4G networks coming this year from multiple providers, and front and center were the new tablets rolling out to compete with the ever-so-popular iPad.
The massive amount of products competing for consumer attention was apparent, and after seeing all of the new handsets, tablets, e-readers and devices being released this year, competition in the wireless industry is higher than ever, which is great news for consumers. First, you get more choices, more cool products being released that offer dynamic new capabilities, second, such competition should actually drive down the cost of both services and devices, such as smartphones. Providers are offering differing plans at lower costs, making access more affordable. For someone who doesn’t even have a mobile device with Internet capabilities, but cannot afford to pay $30 per month for data, new plans are popping up as low as $15. That is half of the cost. Why? Because all of the wireless companies are competing for our business, and in turn this creates new business offerings that help the consumer. To me, the more Americans who can afford to access mobile Internet, the better. More access, means more opportunities, which translates into economic, social, healthcare, educational and many other paths to bettering oneself and fully engaging in society.
This continues to remain an issue with me because as Pew data from 2010 found, African-Americans represent the community with the highest mobile broadband adoption rates. Many households don’t have hardware or broadband internet in the home, making wireless devices the primary means in which they connect to high-speed internet. However, for all of these wireless capabilities, more Spectrum, what Genachowski refers to as the “invisible infrastructure” of the wireless Internet, needs to be unleashed. Luckily, I think this is a point on which many sides agree. The question becomes, how and in which way new Spectrum is made available, as our society increases demands for bandwidth running over wireless networks.
What alot of people don’t realize is that the wireless future is reliant on how Washington acts over the next year. Without smart policy decisions, the massive amounts of new consumer offerings as displayed on the CES show floor would not be possible. While new and upgraded network evolution is occurring – just look at all of the providers rolling out 4G networks, such as LTE and WIMAX in 2011 – sustainable use of mobile broadband is not possible without more Spectrum, in turn limiting the opportunities, innovation and tools provided by wireless technologies.
With all the challenges minorities face in this country with broadband adoption, we still outpace other demographics when it comes to adoption in the mobile space. There are numerous reasons for this, from portability and lack of computer ownership to the multitude of options from major carriers to prepay services like virgin mobile and boost mobile. Regardless of the reason, minorities are leading the surge and not just in the basic mobile services but in the cutting edge areas such as mobile video.
So with the apparent demand in this space, the question still remains why is there still such a lack of relevant content and applications for this audience? In the Apple store, and Android marketplace you would be hard pressed to find options there that are geared to minorities, especially African Americans and Hispanics. Some of the larger media outlets that appeal to these audiences have “stuck their toes in the water” in terms of their attempts to establish a presence on these platforms but nothing to show a firm commitment to providing relevant services to their audiences on these platforms on a consistent basis.
So the question I pose is will that change the 2011? I’ve been telling people that 2011 will be the year of the iPad with it being the hot gift of the holiday season but will iPhone sales still surging and carriers essentially giving android phones away the market will only get bigger in 2011. Will media companies and app developers see this opportunity and start to provide apps and relevant content for this audience? The impact on not only existing community online would be significant not to mention the ability to draw more people who have not adopted broadband with the appeal of relevant offerings. With the opportunity so big and the stakes so high, who do you think will take the lead in 2011? Let me know your thoughts?
Blackweb20.com recently ran a story that caught my eye for several reasons. Two young women from Spelman College participated in a contest put on by ATT : the AT&T Big Mobile on Campus Challenge encourages college students to build engaging mobile apps. I was especially excited to see two women of color be the winners to this years contest. I’ve made no secret, for some time now, of my desire for more students of color to take advantage of the huge opportunities in mobile. I think this contest by ATT is a good start, but I hope we push to do more. I hope to not only see contests but incubation programs, that show students the value of app creation and how to build businesses around it. I’m happy for these young women and will be downloading their app. You should too! Click here