african_amercian_on_phoneAfrican American mobile phone use is higher than that for other ethnic groups, yet African-Americans are distinctly underrepresented when it comes to holding jobs in the mobile tech sector or being aware of mobile tech’s economic empowerment potential, according to a new study from Mobile Future.

Polling 800 African Americans this past January, Mobile Future’s report – ¨Crossing the New Digital Divide: Connecting to Mobile Economic Empowerment¨ – lays out ¨concrete solutions¨ survey participants thought were among the best ways to cultivate greater African American participation in mobile tech innovation, markets and industry.

“African Americans are way out front as avid wireless consumers, yet the community lags in terms of participation in the $548 billion and 7 million jobs [that] mobile innovation contributes each year to the U.S. economy,” said Cornell Belcher, president of Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies, in a press release. Brilliant Corners conducted the survey for Mobile Future.

“With this project, we set out to engage the community to better understand not only why this gap exists, but far more importantly, to discover the pathway leading to economic empowerment and what concrete actions can help begin to turn things around.”

African American Mobile Phone Use
Mobile Future lists the study’s top 10 findings about African American mobile phone use in a press release:

  • Progress on Access: 72% say they live in households with three or more connected devices.
  • Engaged consumers. A full 79% of respondents say mobile technology makes their lives easier. And, 68% say they use their smartphones frequently—either multiple times a day (43%) or multiple times an hour (25%).
  • Mobile Tech=Consumer Tool: Most (59%) view mobile technology as a consumer tool versus a means of economic empowerment (24%). Only 9% say it’s both.
  • Lack of Skills/Awareness: A majority (53%) identify lack of skills and low awareness of mobile tech economic opportunities as the biggest barriers to participation.
  • Local, Affordable Training Can Help: Low-cost training (47%) offered in communities (31%) and schools (26%) would increase interest in mobile tech careers.
  • Significant Gender Gap: African American women were far less likely to be interested in mobile tech jobs. For example, while 45% of men expressed interest in becoming mobile app developers, just 31% of women said the same.
  • Strong entrepreneurial spirit. There is significantly more interest in using mobile technology to start or expand a business (48%) than in pursuing it as a career path (33%).
  • Personal connections matter. Half of respondents (50%) say they do not know anyone in their community who works in the technology industry. Those who do are 56% more likely to express interest in being a mobile tech entrepreneur.
  • More information leads to more interest. After a brief discussion of mobile tech opportunities (via the survey), 8% shifted to express interest in mobile tech careers.
  • Relatable stories make opportunities real. A case study citing use of mobile tech for both personal economic gain and community empowerment proved most persuasive (67%) overall, while millennial women (77%) found the flexibility often associated with mobile tech jobs most compelling.

Commenting on its study, Mobile Future Chair Jonathan Spalter said: “Mobile Future is proud to work with many companies and non-profit organizations on the front lines of improving diversity and economic opportunity in the tech space. These findings will help propel their efforts—and hopefully inspire many others to understand how they, too, can join this next chapter in the march to greater digital inclusion.

“Technology policy debates can get very esoteric very fast. This project is a reminder that real-world opportunities abound where we can all ‘lean in’—whether we’re in government, the private sector or community organizations—and make a real and lasting difference that can transform lives and whole communities.”

Image courtesy of flickr user Johnny Silvercloud.

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