Monday, November 21, 2005

Broadband Trends in the Latino Community: A Report

Through Docuticker, a link to a report from the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI). The report (in PDF), entitled "Trends and Impact of Broadband in the Latino Community," discusses how broadband has become a standard and how the Latino community has been eager to adopt it. However, it is not as easy as that given issues of inequality in terms of income and education. Some findings and statements from the report which seem interesting:

  • "These studies suggest that Hispanics who are online tend to be savvy users with high bandwidth needs (7)."
  • "Hispanics are more likely to download entertainment content and communicate via chat and IM than Internet users in general" (7-8).
  • "Conversely, Hispanics are much less likely to use the Internet as a news or media source. This may be due in part to a lack of Hispanic-oriented content. According to TRPI studies, Hispanics would spend more time online if there was more content geared to their needs, meaning online content that was culturally-specific, community-relevant and language appropriate" (8).
    • By the way, I do question this somewhat since based on experience, younger Latinos often prefer things in English language, specially if they have been raised in the United States. It does not mean they do not want things that are specific to the culture, but it does mean that often they prefer English as their language. See the next item.
  • "Non-English speaking Hispanics, who are also more likely to be less affluent, recent immigrants, and/or living in rural areas--all factors predicting lower Internet usage rates--represent an untapped market for broadband services" (8, emphasis in original).
  • "The affordability question regarding telecommunications services and devices is complex. Latino households have lower incidence of PC ownership (53.6%) than non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans, yet Latino households have higher incidence of cellular usage (76.3%) than do non-Hispanic white households" (10).
    • The report comments that Latinos will use services that make sense to them. Right now, using a cellphone is something that makes sense for staying in touch with family and business. Add to it a calling card, and calling distant relatives is easy. What this shows is that to an extent the Internet is not as relevant to them; it is not meeting their needs. Also, affordability may be an issue, especially monthly access fees. However, if they can afford cellular, it is evidence that they can likely afford the broadband (see findings above on Internet usage).
The report includes various tables and charts to support the findings. It reaches the following conclusion, which provides a good summary of the report:

"A variety of factors will need to be addressed in order to further deploy broadband services within the Hispanic community: lower prices, applications geared toward Hispanic youth and Hispanic businesses, greater accessibility to broadband service, more Spanish, bilingual and culturally-relevant online content, and continuing to drive home the value of computers and the Internet to Hispanics who are not yet online along with training and e-literacy programs" (17).

Now, in case some readers are wondering why this issue is significant, maybe a look at some of the Census figures of the Hispanic community in the U.S. will put this report in context. This link leads to the minority links section of the Census site. From there, readers can choose various reports. For a quick summary, the page that the Census created for Hispanic Heritage Month provides some quick facts.

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