African-Americans are steadily gaining access to and ease with the Internet, signaling a remarkable closing of the "digital divide" that many experts had worried would be a crippling disadvantage in achieving success.Experts? Any economist could have told you that computers would phase in slowly, like every other major innovation. Phones, cars, buttons: all of these started as luxuries affordable only to the wealthy, but as supply rose to meet demand, price fell enormously until they became common to all but the poorest.
Like Jason, almost 9 out of 10 of the 21 million Americans ages 12 to 17 use the Internet, according to a report issued in July by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Of them, 87 percent of white teenagers say they use the Internet, while 77 percent of black teenagers and 89 percent of Hispanic teenagers say they have access to it, the report said.In the twelve or thirteen years since the internet became a reasonably well-known commodity, we've reached 77 percent saturation in the lowest-access racial group (among the young)? Phenomenal, in my opinion. It shows how incredibly cheap access is, and how universally desired. Of course, older people are slower to log in, but this is clearly a matter of preference, since the old are wealthier than the young, and if a black 13-year-old can get online, so can a black 63-year-old. But most 63-year-olds figure they don't need to find out what candy they are.
The divide was considered so dire a decade ago that scholars, philanthropists and even President Bill Clinton in his 1996 State of the Union address fretted over just what the gap would mean in lost educational and employment opportunities for young people who were not wired.In other news, the Y2K bug didn't turn out to be such a big deal either.