Smartphones and the Great Digital Divide Essay

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Smartphones and the Great Digital Divide

Even though 44% of African-Americans and Latinos own a smartphone while only 30% of White, non-Hispanics do, many people contend that this isn't really closing the great digital divide because African-Americans and Latinos use their smartphones more for entertainment than empowerment. Build an argument to support the previous statement.

One can in fact argue that while more minority persons own a smartphone than Caucasian individuals, one still can't take this as evidence of closing the digital divide. This is largely as a result of the fact that the usage of smartphones by Hispanics and African-Americans aren't harnessed for empowerment. Smartphones do offer the ability to scan the web, to communicate with others over the internet, and other such tasks, but they just don't have the same level of practicality as a computer. It's just not as easy to write a resume over a smart phone, or to draft winning emails to prospective employers or to create a website for one's own business endeavors. There is a limit to what smartphones can achieve, and essentially these devices really are best for those who want to communicate with others and to engage in entertainment. Part of the reason that these minority groups don't use their smartphones for empowerment, is because smartphones aren't best for empowerment; they're ideal for things like socializing virtually and for entertainment. Smartphones can assist with empowerment and with elevating oneself via one's profession and work, but that there is a limit to what they can do. More minority groups are using their smartphones for entertainment than empowerment, because entertainment is what smartphones are best for.

2. When accessing the Internet, what can you do on a desktop or laptop computer that you can't do on a smartphone? If smartphones have fewer Internet capabilities (than desktop and laptop computers), can you necessarily link an increase in smartphone ownership within a U.S.-based economically-disadvantaged group of people to closing the great digital divide? Why or why not?

As alluded to in the previous question, there is a tremendous amount that one cannot achieve on a smart phone which only helps in exacerbating the digital divide. Smartphones only offer the minimum amount of typing ability for the user: this means that there is an inherent limit on written communication and the ability to draft documents. The implications of this are incredibly formidable. It means that one isn't able to engage in things which will elevate one's career and one's status in the world through their smart phone. In order to engage in the activities which can't help but further one's career and lead to progress and elevation in one's professional status, one needs the abilities to draft documents, compose formal business letters, construct websites, and compete in a rigorous online environment for jobs. On the most physical and practical level, a smart phone just doesn't give the user the amount of space necessary to complete such tasks: touch screens simply don't offer the same level of precision or speed for drafting the written word. Just as smartphones offer ease and accessibility to the internet for many people, they also present a great deal of limitations. The ease and accessibility that smartphones offer are generally for the most basic activities: checking email, sending texts, playing games, streaming videos. When it comes to more nuanced and intricate tasks, which are essentially the tasks that one needs to elevate one's career, smartphones just aren't able to deliver. Thus, it is because of these limitations that one can't say that smartphones are bridging the digital divide since they aren't able to offer minority users a platform or means by which to elevate their careers.

3. How does an increase in smartphone ownership in a third-world geographic region like Africa close the digital divide for countries in that region? If you owned a U.S. business and wanted to start doing business in Africa, what would be an essential part of your marketing strategy?

The usage of smartphones in places like Africa does in fact represent a certain level of closing of the digital divide. Third-world countries often have more impoverished and more remote regions that don't have access to more traditional sources of media or common pillars of societal structural support. Thus, mobile phones in these disadvantage countries with lower socioeconomic classes and lower gross national products do represent progress and a certain amount of overall leveling of the playing-field. As one resident of Africa explained, "Mobile is fast becoming the PC of Africa,' says Osibo Imhoitsike, market coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa at Norwegian firm Opera, whose mobile browser is enjoying an impressive uptake on the continent.
'In fact there isn't really anything more personal than a mobile phone nowadays'" (Ogunlesi & Busari, 2012). In these third-world nations, smartphones really have found a way to close many of the disparities in development and status for many of these countries. One major way in which this has been achieved is in the arena of banking. M-PESA is a mobile money transfer service that over 15 million Kenyans use, which allows them to move money around and which also acts as a conduit for the nation's GDP (Ogunlesi & Busari, 2012). Mobile money is being used in more and more countries all over Africa.

Mobile phones have also had an impact on activism as their ability to help citizens communicate and connect means that are able "to transform ordinary citizens disenchanted by their governments, into resistance fighters…Three years earlier, in the aftermath of bloody elections in Kenya, citizens were able to report violent occurrences via text messages to a server (via the Ushaidi platform) that was viewable by the rest of the world as they happened" (Ogunlesi & Busari, 2012). This is a tremendous breakthrough in the realm of online communication: mobile phones in third world countries are simply able to connect these nations to the rest of the world, transferring information and images, and essentially allowing these nations to share their struggles and their breaking news with the western world (an area which can often be immune to the realities of far and away lands). Mobile phones have thus given these third-world countries a voice and a level of transparency that they didn't have before (Ogunlesi & Busari, 2012).

Furthermore, smartphone users in Africa have been able to capitalize on the ability of smartphones to convey information and use them to further their educational needs and interests. Nokia is a company which was able to capitalize very strongly on this aspect: the popularity of social networking in South Africa was something that they company used to launch a product known as Momath, a teaching tool for math that was based in an instant messaging platform: "The potential for transforming the continent's dysfunctional educational system is immense, as mobile phones -- cheaper to own and easier to run than PCs -- gain ground as tools for delivering teaching content" (Ogunlesi & Busari, 2012). The implications for this are truly enormous: this means that mobile phones in nations like Africa have an ability to fix flaws of the social system, and to elevate all members involved. Essentially, this is an example: it shows how the mobile phone system in Africa are healing parts of the continent.

4. If you look at smartphone ownership by household income, you'll notice a fairly sizable dip for the category of $50,000-$75,000. To what do you attribute this? Justify your answer?

One of the reasons that there's such a marked dip (a decrease of 6%) at the household level of $50,000 to $75,000 is because this signifies a socioeconomic class that one could qualify as "middle-class to slightly-upper-middle-class." Thus, these household have money to support themselves, they just don't have a great deal of money. They're comfortable, but they're not too comfortable. Often households that possess this level of income are also ones which have several members living there and who have several dependents as well. As a result, the income which comes in will be spread somewhat thin among all the members. This means that there won't be a lot of extra money available for extravagances: these are things like luxury goods and expensive phones: for certain households like these, if the choice is between picking a simple flip phone for all members or a smart phone which is three times the price, the head of the household is no doubt going to select the flip phone. This is particularly the case when it comes to households that have numerous members. If the head of household has to purchase several phones for several kids, three smart phones can quickly add up to over 300 dollars, versus three more basic phones at around $100 or less. Furthermore, because households which are around the $50,000 to $75,000 mark, are ones which are likely to have children, parents might not want the kids to have the unregulated internet use in this manner and the excessive freedom that smartphones provide.

For adults,….....

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