The knowledge age: African Americans in the information society

Adams-Means, Carol L.
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Previous studies on access to information technology, primarily computers and Internet access, have described the disparities in the acquisition rate of technology between minorities and other racial groups. The Federal government conducted a series of large-scale studies during the 1990s, and early 21st century, to chart the penetration of information technology into American society. African Americans, with incomes of $40,000 or less, were most frequently identified as the population least likely to have equity in use of these technologies. Policymakers and scholars perceived this disparity in technology access as potentially detrimental to the economic and educational advancement of not just African Americans, but other minorities as well. The discourse on the inequities in technology access was metaphorically referenced as “the digital divide.” The Internet held the promise for reducing disparities in access to information in a 21st century knowledge age that could potentially improve the social advancement of all populations. While the Internet has great potential to serve as a knowledge-base and an empowering resource, a qualitative analysis of the lives of African Americans in East Austin, Texas, revealed participants actively use information technology. Ethnographic interviews and in-depth analysis; however, suggests the complexities of their heritage, community, culture, and social welfare present barriers, other than technology access, that potentially impede their social advancement despite having access to technology.