While the digital divide is very real and affects low income and folks of color in negative ways, that doesn’t mean these groups aren’t engaging with emerging social media platforms like Twitter.
In a presentation earlier this week at SXSW, Baratunde Thurston, the Web & Politics editor at The Onion and co-founder of Jack & Jill Politics, pointed out that if you consider mobile use by "Black folk," the impact of the digital divide on Blacks and Latinos in the U.S. actually dissipates.Thurston cited research from the Pew Internet and Life Project that studied wireless internet use by African Americans and Latinos.
When tethered and wireless access are considered together, the gaps in online engagement between whites and blacks largely dissipates. Nearly as many African Americans have cell phone or online access as whites, with a gap of only 4 percentage points.
We’ve seen successful peer-to-peer mobile campaigns that included the participation of Blacks and Latinos like the text based Haiti fundraising efforts and 2006’s immigration marches that were largely organized through radio and text messages.
What does this mean? Until everyone has equal access to broadband, if you want to run any kind of campaign that includes Blacks and Latinos you have to include a mobile strategy.