African Americans and Hispanics living in urban areas are far less likely to own a computer or have Internet access, according to new research. Companies' ability to target this potentially lucrative market via the Internet will depend heavily on getting urban minorities to join the burgeoning digital community.
According to a study released on Monday by the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Citizenship Education Fund, while 60% of all urban households have computers, only 48% of African Americans and 52% of Hispanics do. Fifty-one% of all urban households have Internet access at home through a PC, but just 37% of African Americans and 42% of Hispanics in urban areas have access.
The study, conducted across 700 US urban areas in which two out of five people were classified as ethnic or racial minorities (based on US census data), will be made available for companies to use in determining such things as programming, content, branding, market strategy and product development.
The future lies in having broadband service widely available in urban areas and creating awareness about new technologies. With broadband users going online more and stay logged on for longer periods of time, the combined effect of broadband and increased access avenues will be key.
In the study, African Americans reported a higher number of TVs in the home, were more hooked on cable, and had the highest rate of premium cable service compared with other groups. African American households were also found to be the most television-oriented of all households - something researchers were eager to point out in an era of Web-based TV, interactive TV and digital cable service. By 2005, 191 million devices will connect via broadband, of which PCs will constitute only 36%.
However, the ultimate solution for bridging the digital divide will not be products and services alone. Without a concerted attempt to educate urban minorities about the importance of accessing the Internet, the digitally divided will most certainly remain so. The willingness of telco providers to deliver broadband services in urban areas, the growth of alternate Internet access channels, and the ability to create demand for these new products and services will ultimately decide the future for companies looking to target African Americans and Hispanics via the Internet.