African-Americans Lead New Wave of Mobile Internet Users, Report Finds

A new report from the Pew Research Center found mobile Internet use to be on the rise. Among those surveyed, African-Americans reported accessing the Internet with a mobile device at twice the national average.

Mobile Internet use has "increased sharply," according to a report from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, based on data from an April 2009 survey. The survey additionally found that the growth rate at which African-Americans are accessing the mobile Internet is twice the national average.

Among the 2,253 American adults surveyed, 32 percent said they'd used a cell phone or smartphone to access the Internet - a number up by one-third since a similar December 2007 survey, when only 24 percent of respondents said they had.
On a typical day, 19 percent of Americans reportedly access the Internet on a mobile device, versus the 11 percent who did in December 2007 - a growth of 73 percent during the 16-month interval.
"Mobile access strengthens the three pillars of online engagement: connecting with others, satisfying information queries and sharing content with others," said John B. Horrigan, the author of the report, in a statement.
Additionally, the survey found African-Americans to be the most active mobile Internet users.
"The notion of a digital divide for American Americans has some resonance when thinking about the wireless Internet," said Horrigan in the statement. "But when you introduce the mobile Internet, the picture changes and African Americans are the pace setters."
Of the survey respondents who identified themselves as African-Americans, 48 percent said they had used a mobile device to access the Internet at least once, and 29 percent said they on an average day, they went online with a mobile device. Both numbers, according to the report, are twice the national average.
Horrigan goes into greater detail in the report, writing, "Among whites who have ever gone online with a handheld device, some 88 percent have broadband at home. For African-Americans who have accessed the net on a handheld, 64 percent have broadband at home."
He continues, "From the vantage point of non-broadband users, reliance on wireless access among African-Americans is quite pronounced relative to whites. Among white Americans who do not have broadband at home (that is, they either dial-up or are not Internet users), 6 percent have accessed the Internet on a handheld device. For African Americans without broadband, nearly 25 percent have used the Internet on their cell or smartphone."
The April survey also found more Americans to be using their handhelds for non-voice data activities, such as "sending or receiving text messages, taking a picture, playing a game, checking e-mail, accessing the Internet, recording video, instant messaging, playing music, getting maps or directions, or watching video."
Of those surveyed, 69 percent said they had done at least one of the activities listed above, versus the 58 percent who said they had in 2007. Further, the number of respondents who said they performed at least one of these activities on a typical day was 44 percent in April, compared to 32 percent in December 2007.
When asked what mobile access meant to them, 50 percent said it was important to the for staying in touch; 46 percent said it was important for "getting online information on the go"; and 17 percent said mobile access was important for sharing or posting content online while they were away from home or work.
Overall, the April survey found 56 percent of the Americans surveyed to have accessed the Internet with a wireless device, and 24 percent to be Internet users, but to have never gone online wirelessly. The remaining 20 percent said they were not Internet users at all.