Friday, November 13, 2009

Digital Divide?


I think I will throw up if I hear one more person mention this so called "Digital Divide".

Digital Divide as defined by Wikipedia:
"The term digital divide refers to the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all... The digital divide may be classified based on gender, income, and race groups"

Black folks have been making excuses for years why we can't achieve and the "Digital Divide" is the newest excuse. Back in the 60s, Black folks had real discrimination, now Black folks are making barriers when none exist.

I used to own rental properties in the worst parts of Detroit. My tenants did not have a lot of money. They did NOT have a computer or internet access, but my African American tenants did have a big screen TV (bigger than mine) with the premium movie channels. The son had the latest $100+ athletic shoes and everybody had mobile phones. They were on the wrong side of the "Digital Divide" by choice. Currently, a netbook computer is less than $200.

In regards to this so called “Digital Divide”, I don't think there are large corporations sitting around conspiring to hold Black people back by limiting access to computers and the internet. The last time I checked, Apple, Microsoft and Comcast accepted Black folks’ money.

In a related situation, I started the Web Academy to help expose the masses to technology. This fall, the City of New York is hosting a computer application development contest. I decided to enter the Web Academy and I solicited my entire network of students, colleagues, friends and family to join my team to build an iPhone application. No experience was required to be on my team. You just needed to sign up.

About 85% of my network is African American, 10% Caucasian and 5% other.

Why is my iPhone development team 20% African American, 40% Asian and 40% Caucasian. I'm willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with me regardless of color or national origin.

So, did the "Digital Divide" keep African Americans from joining my iPhone development team? Is EHAM apart of the man’s global “Digital Divide” conspiracy to keep Black folks down? What do you think about this so called “Digital Divide”?

14 comments:

Roger said...

I agree with you 100%! You are absolutely correct. As a member of the Web Academy, I should be on your iPod development team as well. I could give you several excuses (UK time zone 5 hours ahead, busy with wife & kids, etc.). However, that still doesn't address the issue. I always tell my wife and children that people make time to do the things they want and excuses for what they don't want to do (generally, of course).

With that said, I should make time to complete the assignments.

I'm sure some of us would criticize you if you didn't give back and when you do we don't capitalize on the opportunity.

Imani said...

"Digital Divide" or "Laziness"? I prefer to choose the latter. It's utterly ridiculous that children are walking around w/ overtly expensive ANYTHING on... they are children... they lose, break, and most often times do not appreciate expensive things. Moreover, they [many black] are raised w/ the mentality of materialism and the pattern is perpetually repeated. I could write an entire dissertation on this, but the topic is Black people making excuses for not excelling in the realm of technology, so I'll stay on track. Anyway, like I initially stated, I think it's laziness. It's easier to walk into a store and pick out a pair of shoes that everyone has or a TV that looks cool. However, it's not so easy to buy a Mac (well, actually it really is.. I love mine), and learn all of the applications. With these applications, you can create your own music, design your own shoes, watch movies w/ out the price tag of ordering premium channels; but it's easier to do the latter. It's easier to just buy things that are easily accessible to operate--if you will. Okay, I'm rambling along, I think you get my point..

EHAM said...

Rog, I feel you you... I wasn't trying to guilt anyone specifically into joining my iPhone development team, but I do feel you...

Imani, "Digital Divide" or "Laziness"? I like that... Well put... I appreciate you taking the time to respond...

Anonymous said...

Like others who have commented on your blog, I too was in your Web Academy and obtained the invite. But unlike the others in your blog, I did not sign up because it was not something I wanted to do, or I was too lazy. I did not sign up because of intimidation. Even with my knowledge of web design and computer savvy abilities. I did not feel as if I could add value with my limited knowledge of web development. When I saw the invitation, I was excited but then that fear of swimming in the ocean for the first time came upon me. I also believe that many others, black specifically, in the web class probably felt the way I felt and not how Imani or Roger felt. Based on the types of questions and comments asked throughout the course, my scenario probably fits best. Regarding your question of a digital divide, yes there is a digital divide, amongst the cultures. The divide doe not exist because the technology is not available to all cultures but because it is not a basic survival tool for most. In Asian and most Caucasian cultures computers are a way of life. Everyone more than likely have their own computer by the time they hit middle school. In African American cultures it is a luxury, that can only be enjoyed by one person at a time (if a computer exists in the home) and therefore not a sacrifice the entire family is willing to pay for. Black families that can afford a computer in every bed room do not live in the poorer parts of Detroit. That’s my 2 cents.

P.S. It would be interesting if you took a poll of when each individual in your next class was first introduced to computers, school or home.


Grace and Peace to you all.
Miss Breedlove

EHAM said...

Frankie,
Thank you for your response. I understand why you did not join the iPhone dev team, and I am not slamming you for not joining. People have job, lives, kids and responsibilities. It's all good. In the invitation I stated that the experience will be a learning experience for everyone, including me. I had zero mobile application development experience at the time of my request for volunteers. It's okay for people to decline my invitation. I'm good with that.

I respect your opinions, however, I totally disagree. Computers were a luxury in the 1980s. Today computers are cheaper than televisions and I've never been to a house that did not have at least 1 television. Never! Have you been to a house with out a television.

The same Black folks that can buy $200 television could opt to by a $200 computer instead and simultaneously take a free online course like mine or order those free computer instructional DVDs.

Too many Black folks feel that they have to be taught in order to learn. So, Imani is correct. It is laziness! We are in the Age of Obama, thus anything is possible.

Our Black Ancestors could only dream of the opportunities that our generation of Black people have.

We live in a country were poor people don't starve. In 3rd world countries people die of hunger. People don't die of hunger in the US. The US is probably the only country in the world with fat poor people.

We live in an Age in the US where we have/had:
Black Astronauts in Space
Black Surgeon General
Black NFL Coaches (plural) winning the Superbowl
Black Joint Chief of Staff
Black Senators
Black Governors
Black Security of State
Black US Attorney General
Black President

The only thing we have not achieved is the 1st Black Vice President!

With all of these great accomplishments we still have a segment of our Black population making excuses why they can't achieve! It's BS!

In summary Frankie, there is no Digital Divide. The term is a term thought up by people looking to blame White folks for their lack of success. Yes, there is some inequality in our society. Life is not fair sometimes, but we live in the greatest/richest country in the world with a Black President.

What else needs to occur for these folks wake up?

Cynthia Renee Frazier said...

Eric I have a slightly different take on the digital divide topic. I too am an Internet Guru--at least on the soft side (training vs development). I offer training to small business owners, teens and their parents. I have been quoted in the newspaper saying that the new digital divide is between parents and their children. Cell phones have neutralized the necessity for a home computer. A smart phone can do almost everything that a computer can do.

Right now, teens are using digital devices for the wrong thing. (sexting) Most parents have no clue how this is done. That is why I developed a training course called DigiSafe 101 to teach teens and parents how to use their cell phone for things like finding employment, researching, and connecting to powerful people through social networking.

The digital divide discussion was started by educators who wanted money for computers in schools. Well educators now have computers in their classrooms but they don't know how to use them. I see dust collecting on many classroom computers. Don't get me wrong. I am not pointing the finger at educators. I just think the discussion focus needs to change from access to effective use. Over 50% of Americans now have access to the Internet. When those numbers are broken down racially, it is 68% white and 51% black. Asians outrank whites at 76%.

I feel your passion for the work that you do as well as for the people you love. That is great! It's not about big numbers. You with a team of 1 can make a huge impact. Good luck on the contest. I look forward to a favorable outcome for your team!

EHAM said...

Cynthia,
Thanks for the comments and thanks for providing your computer education. It is needed. I agree with most of what you are saying.

However, why must people be "taught"? Why can't intelligent people go out and seek knowledge?

I started high school in 1983 and graduated in 1987. In 1985 (at age 16) I desired to go to college an study computer science. My high school (a good man with good intentions) tried to talk me out of studying computer science. He said "You'll go crazy having to sit in front of a computer all day"... I nodded my head to be polite but secretly thought that old man was a damn fool.

As a 16 year in 1985, I knew the direction of technology. If a 16 year old in the 1985 can see the writing on the wall during the primitive 80s, then an adult in 2009 surely should be able to see the trends and prepare accordingly.

No excuses!

EHAM said...

In my last response I meant to say "My high school counselor (a good man with good intentions) tried to talk me out of studying computer science"

Cynthia Renee Frazier said...

Ignorance is bliss Eric. lol Ok laughing aside, intellengent people don't seek knowledge because we live in a society, not a vaccum. You don't hear mothers say to their children when they leave home, "Go out and try something new today sweetie." Or "Be sure to break something so you can fix it honey." No, parents tell their children to "be careful," and "watch out for the bad guys," and "stay in our comfort zone so you will be safe." Then when children get to school they are taught Industrial Age philosophy--"here are the facts, now hurry up and remember them so you can pass the test."

You and I know that to be successful in the digital age one must take chances, know how to learn, and be a problem solver. "If it aint broke you'd better break it and be among the first to fix it."

Fortunately, YOU didn't listen to the misguided school counselor. Unfortunately, many families do listen because that is the only expert they have access to. I am proud that you stood your ground and are now teaching others to do the same!

EHAM said...

Cynthia,
excellent points... Thanks for the follow up...

Anna S. said...

Hey Eric,

I screwed up and didn't make the IPhone development meeting. Nonetheless, I appreciate everything you've done for me and all other students with the Web Academy.

As for the "Digital Divide," I disagree with you. Yes, I said it, I disagree :)

Did you know that AP Computer Science exams are rarely provided in majority black high schools? When was the last time you used a computer in the free library?

Did you know that many free library computers don't have computer programs (i.e. Photoshop Suite, etc.) that would help "bridge the digital divide"?

I have a theory. I think knowledge by itself is not power. A person needs to know how to apply the knowledge, and if there is any intimidation or feelings of inferiority regarding one's ability to learn, I think that in and of itself could provide another explanation for why the "digital divide" continues to exist.

I took computer science courses in college with a group of black people. By the spring all except myself and 1 other black female with a computer scientist uncle, had dropped out. Why?

They didn't have computers and they failed quizzes repeatedly, because many non-black students had access to information and tutoring that we (the blacks) could not afford. For example,I was a computer science major without a computer. I had to schedule my study time around the computer lab. Yes, I did okay, but I really did not excel, because I didn't have my own computer like many of my college mates. I also didn't get the opportunity to take computer programming in high school, which would have helped establish an foundation for more complex college material.

Since I now work as a tutor to some of those black people who you seem to imply are lazy, my perspective has completely changed, because I used to believe things were as cut as dry as you seem to. I can't do that when tutoring children whose mothers are crack heads or parolees, and who have to play babysitters for promiscuous family members' children.

Sorry for my monologue.
You're a tech expert, so it may be harder for you to remember what it is like to learn as a beginner, and inherently you may also have confidence that other people are still building.

EHAM said...

Anna,
Thank you for your comments...

I partially understand what you are saying. Again, it seems that you are delivering more excuses. Your excuses are real and they are more valid than the other excuses but they are excuses.

Many Black folks think that all White folks are rich with access to unlimited resources. That's not true. There are White folks who have to struggle also. I know of many.

My question for you, Ann. As a computer science student, why didn't you connect with the non-Black students? We as Black people tend to segregate ourselves. Sometimes you have to make friends with people who don't look like you. I was a successful computer science student when I reached out to help others and they reciprocated. I was the only Black computer science graduate at my commencements at MSU in 1996. However, I was surrounded by other computer science friends who didn't look like me.

100 Years ago, Black folks were getting lynched and denied access to the best Universities. Now we have Black folks complaining because their local library doesn't have the latest version of Adobe Photoshop. To that fact, what about GIMP? GIMP is a open source FREE, photo editing tool with almost identical features as Photoshop. That same person who is complaining about Photoshop could skip buying the $200 shoes and buy a $200 netbook. Access the internet at a wifi hotspot. Download GIMP for FREE. Access FREE GIMP documentation and their photo editing career is launched.

No excuses...

So, your next question might be. How do these Black folks find out about GIMP and other resources. The answer is simple. Reading...

Ann, I appreciate your response, but I simply disagree...

Anna said...

Eric,

Thanks for your response. You've made some very key points, but there are some aspects where we'll have to agree to disagree.

I don't think the digital divide is simply a race issue, but it's also a class issue - as is the education system itself now. You're in a different class from the average poor person, so how exactly would a poor person learn from your wealth of knowledge?

You seem to be missing the heart of what I'm saying and making assumptions. To clarify,

1. I personally do not think that all whites are rich. My white classmates weren't rich, but they darn well had comp. sci classes in high school, and I didn't. Therefore, they were ahead of me,based on prior exposure and they all had computers, which was more than what I had. You seem to underestimate impact of a small advantage. If I remember, you also said that your parents purchased a computer for you. Do you not think that that helped inspire you to get to where you are today?


2. I never said I didn't have relationships with other non-black students. In fact, I did. That's how I made the Dean's list as a comp. sci major, but many of my black classmates failed, because of financial problems associated with simply trying to stay in college and the fact that our course was taught at an advanced pace, when we were all beginners.

3. You mentioned that you were one of the only comp. sci majors to graduate. Why was that? Perhaps, because as I mentioned in my post, some blacks may have switched to "easier" majors to save their GPAs.

4. Lynchings and education are apples and oranges. True, we do have more access to more than our ancestors; however, systemic racism still persists and their are still additional obstacles that blacks have to overcome in comparison to other races.

Acknowledging a challenge is not the same as making an excuse.

Oh btw - you educated me about GIMP - I never heard of it for its photoshop capabilities. Black folks didn't complain about there not being the latest version of Adobe Photoshop, I did.

Regardless, I have access to Photoshop, but someone who's poor and uses the library extensively for knowledge would not.

It all comes down to seeing how to apply knowledge. A person can read books all day long and still not know how to DO anything.

It also comes down to being aware of one's ignorance to rectify the problem.

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