Black Millennials Lead in Digital, Nielsen Says

Jessica Guynn , USA TODAY 

SAN FRANCISCO — Black millennials are closing the digital divide with their avid use of mobile technology, according to a new report from the consumer research firm.

Their engagement on social media also tops the charts, especially in raising awareness of issues in the black community, according to the report, “Young, Connected and Black: African-American Millennials Are Driving Social Change and Leading Digital Advancement.”

“We have entered a new era whereby technology has become a great equalizer,” Nielsen’s Cheryl Grace, senior vice president of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement, said in a statement. “Black Millennials are leading the way in their use of technology to impact change and get their voices heard.”

The report comes as Silicon Valley tech companies look to increase the diversity of its mostly white-and-Asian workforce to compete in an increasingly global marketplace and as African-American buying power is on the rise. Having underrepresented minorities brainstorming and building, not just using, the products dreamed up here is quickly becoming a necessity.

According to Nielsen:

–          Among smartphone owners, African Americans (91%) are second only to Asian Americans (94%).

–          91% of African Americans say they access the Internet on a mobile device, an increase from 86% in 2015.

–          African-American Millennials spend about two hours more a week (eight hours and 29 minutes versus six hours and 28 minutes) using the Internet on personal computers than total Millennials, and about an hour more weekly (three hours and 47 minutes versus two hours and 33 minutes) watching video on personal computers.

–          African-American millennials are 25% more likely than all Millennials to say they are among the first of their social or work circle to try new tech products.

–          More than half — 55% — of black Millennials report spending at least one hour a day on social media, 6% more than all Millennials, and 29% say they spend at least three hours a day on social media, 9% more than all Millennials.

Mobile Broadband Adoption Exploding Globally

More than 226 million people in Africa have smartphone connections, and more than half a billion are mobile cell phone subscribers, a figure that’s expected to grow to 725 million by 2020. At the same time, 92% of China’s mainland population is expected to have mobile broadband at 4G speeds by 2018. With figures like these, it would be an understatement to say that mobile broadband adoption around the world is on the rise. But the recent trends in cell phone and smartphone ownership are just the tip of the iceberg.

As mobile and smart devices become cheaper, and more people get to experience the array of life-enhancing applications the Internet enables, mobile growth will only continue to skyrocket. A recent report by the Pew Research Center finds that smartphone ownership is surging in emerging economies, but that advanced economies still have higher rates of technology use. Here in the U.S., people use cell phones and smartphones at a rate higher than almost anywhere in the world, surpassed only by Australia, with Canada and the U.K. as close seconds.

While the digital divide remains a real stumbling block for people on the wrong side of the technology access equation, mobile adoption is helping to reduce digital disparities. By providing portable, affordable Internet access, especially for members of rural or low-income communities, mobile accessibility enables access to beneficial, and at times, life saving platforms and technologies. Even where home broadband adoption has plateaued, mobile broadband use over a smartphone or cell phone is allowing people to get and stay connected to the technologies we’ve become some dependent on for daily interactions.

Considering the profound importance of Internet access these days, maintaining affordable options of mobile connectivity is key to reducing the digital divide. Increased mobility is also essential for ensuring that people around the world can access the opportunities made possible by the Internet.