Simply put, the digital divide is a metaphorical separation between the haves and the have-nots. Certain groups are privileged with more access to the tools of the information age than others. Limited access can manifest in the form of economic hardship or cultural inclination. The gap reinforces power imbalances as it restricts crucial skills and knowledge of cutting-edge business practices needed to succeed. Minority groups tend to be the most vulnerable to the inequities of the digital divide.
Over the years, the gap has narrowed. Technology is finally penetrating all population segments. More than 56% of U.S. citizens have access to the Internet -- a step in the right direction.
U.S. Hispanics are taking the lead in narrowing the divide. They are young, online, early-adopting media mavens who own more businesses than ever before. These patterns suggest an enhanced presence in U.S. business and increased technology literacy.
Internet usage among Hispanic citizens has skyrocketed. In February 2009, online Hispanics exceeded a record breaking 20.3 million, representing 11% of the U.S. population. At a growth rate four times the national average, Hispanic Internet usage will soon cross the divide.
Hispanics use technology in sophisticated ways. They tend to be "media meshers" and use multiple channels and devices. They are more likely than other groups to text message, search the web through mobile phones and browse social networking sites. Savvy technology habits will play a role in advancing Hispanic business.
And, they are young. Younger people are often early adopters comfortable with technology innovations. With 50% of the population segment under the age of 26, tomorrow's Hispanic business people will be fluent in advanced technologies.
Evidence for achievement can be seen in growth of Hispanic-owned businesses. Entrepreneurial trends indicate they will increase 41.8% to 4.3 million in the next six years. Total revenues are expected to exceed 4 billion. Hispanic business will increasingly represent a significant portion of the U.S. economy.
Although conditions have improved, there is a lot of ground left to cover. Hispanics still lag behind Caucasians in technology usage. Hispanic-owned businesses are less likely to have Internet access, a company website or an e-commerce strategy. Fortunately, many organizations exist to help advance Hispanic business and get technological expertise.
Online business association Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce (HISCEC) helps small businesses interact with suppliers and customers, educates its members and provides access to markets. "To enable technological literacy and professional development of the Hispanic small business community, we are hosting a series of events, including the two-day Hispanic Business & Technology Expo (www.hbshowcase.com) in September," said HISCEC President Tayde Aburto.
The digital divide creates obstacles limiting professional achievement for marginalized groups. Technological literacy will continually be a vital tool for modern business industries. The Hispanic role in the professional realm will progress as the community breaks down the barriers of the divide.