It’s no secret young people live on their cell or smart phones, but for Latino youth –that rings even truer. A new report written by Mobile Future and the Hispanic institute underlines young Hispanics and new generations of Americans spend heavily on mobile broadband technology – $17.6 billion on mobile devices and more than $500 million on mobile apps in 2012.
The report Hispanic Broadband Access: Making the Most of the Mobile, Connected Future notes that the legal immigration of people from all over Latin America has actually been a significant factor in American Hispanics’ embrace of mobile broadband.
As it turns out in many developing nations, infrastructure problems actually limit the ability for landlines to be used, as a result home internet is not common. This has actually fostered more creativity in how people engage with the internet. As a result accessing the internet using cell phones is actually much more popular. When legal Hispanic migrants arrive in the United States they do so having grown up accessing the internet on their mobile phones. Transitioning to smart phones and other similar devices is actually easier for this population of immigrants. According to the report this partly explains why immigrants are more likely to have mobile phones even if they have relatively lower incomes than the average U.S. resident.
This is having a profound impact on mobile media in the United States. There were 16.7 million unique visits by Hispanics to Facebook in 2011, an increase of 8 percent over the previous year. Twitter use was up 32 percent year over year, and Hispanics were 17 percent more likely than the average consumer to build or update personal blogs.
Young Latinos are proving to be the most connected, regardless of their socio-economic background. Nearly 70 percent of Hispanics have laptops, 51.5 percent have smart phones, and 18.8% have tablets. Perhaps most eye-popping for those thirsty for expanding their bottom line in the telecommunications industry, ninety percent of Hispanics, ages 18-29, have cell phones. Hispanics actually lead whites in using mobile phones to access the Internet, 40-34 percent, at 45 percent, they also lead both whites, 24 percent, and African Americans, 44 percent, in sending and receiving instant messages.
As the report notes, the promise of a connected society is essential to maintaining a competitive posture in the world and to realizing America’s promise of a fair chance to prosper in a digital-dominated world. It is also true that Broadband access is closely aligned with economic opportunities and a wide array of social benefits; however the question should be as we increasingly go mobile in this new America perhaps the innovation will be coming from the bottom up. Only time will tell.
Kristian Ramos is the Policy Director of the 21st Century Border Initiative at NDN and The New Policy Institute.