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African-Americans and the Digital Divide

African-Americans and the Digital Divide
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Author(s): Lynette Kvasny (The Pennsylvania State University, USA) and Fay Cobb Payton (North Carolina State University, USA)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 5
Source title: Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch014

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Abstract

The Internet has become an integral part of America’s entertainment, communication, and information culture. Since the mid 1990s, the Internet has become prevalent in middle and upper-class American households. Companies and government agencies are increasingly offering products, services, and information online. Educational institutions are integrating technology into their curriculum and are offering courses from a distance. However, while some are advantaged by the efficiencies and convenience that result from these innovations, others may unwittingly become further marginalized by these same innovations since Internet access is not spreading to them as quickly. The ‘digital divide’ is the term used to describe this emerging disparity. Government analysts argue that historically underserved groups such as racial and ethnic minorities, rural and low-income communities, and older Americans are at a distinct disadvantage if this divide is not closed because American economic and social life is increasingly becoming networked through the Internet (National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 1995). Over the last decade access to the Internet has increased significantly. A 2006 Pew Internet and American Life survey shows that 73% of U.S. adults (about 147 million adults) are Internet users, up from 66% (about 133 million adults) in 2005. And the share of Americans who have broadband connections at home reached 42% (about 84 million), up from 29% (about 59 million) in 2005 (Madden, 2006). African- Americans are increasingly accessing the Internet via home broadband connections, with a 121% adoption rate in 2005 (Horrigan, 2006). But does this mean that the problem of the digital divide has been solved? Is further research in this area warranted or has the digital divide become passé? In this article, we take on these questions by first reviewing major issues and trends in digital divide research. We do so by reviewing the digital divide literature as it relates to one historically underserved group, namely African-Americans. Next, we present a conceptual framework that contrasts 1) social and technological access perspectives, and 2) assetbased/ resource and behavioral/use perspectives. The article concludes with our recommendations for future research opportunities for examining digital divide issues.

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