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Catching up with Communities of Color: Online and New Media Use

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Fard Johnmar

Fard Johnmar, Founder, Envision Solutions

In our last post on the United States Conference on AIDS Exit Disclaimer, we talked about a number of programs that are using new media to reach minority communities with HIV/AIDS information and resources. At the conference we heard about HIV/AIDS programs trying to be where many of their communities are: online and using new media. But is that where our target audiences really are? We wanted to get a clearer understanding of internet and new media use among communities of color. To learn more, we hosted a webinar, “Underserved Populations and New Media Use”.

We are grateful to our speakers, Fard Johnmar, Founder of Envision Solutions, LLC Exit Disclaimer, and Alejandro Garcia-Barbon, Senior Technical Advisor of IQ Solutions Exit Disclaimer and the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) Drugs + HIV> Learn the Link Campaign (more on this in next week’s post), who shared their knowledge and experiences with us and over 100 of our Federal colleagues and their grantees.

Is there a “digital divide”?

First of all, what do we mean by the digital divide? At AIDS.gov, we’ve been using the following adaptation of Wikipedia’s “digital divideExit Disclaimer definition: “the gap between people with, and without, effective access to digital and information technology.” In this definition, access is different than effective access – for example, use of a slow dial-up Internet connection at a public computer is less effective than a high-speed Internet connection at home.

Fard told us there are several things we need to look at when considering who is online. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project Exit Disclaimer, 73% of all adults in the U.S. are using the Internet or e-mail. There is a gap between White (75%) and Black (59%) users of these technologies, but it has been decreasing over the past several years. Eighty percent of English-speaking Hispanic adults are using both technologies. And 90% of all adults ages 18-29 are using e-mail or the Web. If your target audience is youth, Black, White or Asian many are clearly Internet savvy.

So where do the biggest gaps in Internet use remain? There is a divide between Spanish-dominant Hispanic adults and other population groups, though 32% are online. As Fard showed us, the other important piece of the puzzle is the effective Internet access piece – and looking at access to high-speed Internet connection shows gaps based on income, race and location (rural vs. suburban or urban). Lack of access to high-speed Internet doesn’t mean people aren’t online, Fard cautioned us, but it might mean different populations use different new media tools in different ways.

High Speed Internet Use

How are communities of color using new media?

Fard shared statistics from eMarketer Exit Disclaimer that suggest African American and Hispanic adults are more likely to use certain new media technologies than Whites, such as social networking sites, online chat rooms, and instant messaging.

Online Social Networking and Communications Activities of US Internet Users, by Race/Ethnicity, March-April 2007 (% of respondents in each group)
  African American Hispanic Non-Hispanic white
Reading and writing e-mail 64% 66% 81%
Instant Messaging 45% 46% 36%
Visiting social networking sites 33% 32% 20%
Sending greeting cards 29% 31% 26%
Participating in chat rooms 22% 22% 10%

Note: n=1,038 African American, 766 Hispanic and 901 non-Hispanic white; ages 16+; activities done frequently or occasionally. Source: Yankelovich, “2007/2008 MONITOR Multicultural Marketing Study,” provided to eMarketer, September 17, 2007

A study Exit Disclaimer by Envision Solutions found that 45% of Hispanics and 40% of Blacks as well as 37% of Whites had doubted a medical provider’s opinion or diagnosis because it conflicted with information they had read on the Internet. As Fard said “we know that people of color are not only going online to learn about health topics but they’re being influenced by information provided by what we call Dr. Web.” People are using the information they find online to make important decisions about their health – so we need to be there with good tools and information!

What’s an example of a program using new media to reach communities of color? Stay tuned!!

Alejandro Garcia-Barbon

Alejandro Garcia-Barbon, Senior Technical Advisor, IQ Solutions

Next week we’ll hear from Alejandro Garcia-Barbon, about his experiences implementing NIDA’s “Drugs + HIV> Learn the Link” Campaign. This campaign uses TV, print and online and radio public service announcements, posters, social network sites and other tools to send prevention messages specifically targeted to African American and Hispanic girls.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear about your experiences reaching communities of color and using new media tools to enhance your work.

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Comments

  1. Frank says:

    At first Thanks for the update and congrants for this great work! I look forward to read Alejandro Garcia Barbon announcements!!

  2. Understanding How Minorities Use Online Video & Social Networks

    A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure and honor of participating in a Webinar conducted by the folks at the US department of Health and Human Services (AIDS.gov) on how minority populations are using various interactive and social technologies….

  3. It is great that there is a lot of medical information online available to everyone. We must however caution the public that much of that information is not moderated by anyone. The source of that information may not be credible. The internet can be a great tool for learning and the spread of information. But we must be willing to verify the source of the information we receive as well. Verifying the source is key when doing any sort of research.

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