Mobile Future

Release: How to Close African-American Tech Opportunity Gap

Survey Among First to Go Beyond Exploring the Opportunity Gap in Tech Sector by Engaging Community in Identifying Workable Strategies for Closing the Divide 

(Washington, DC) A new nationwide poll of African-Americans identifies a significant gap between the community’s enthusiastic embrace of mobile technology as consumers and their awareness of mobile technology as a tool for economic empowerment. Most important, the poll is among the first in the nation to ask respondents to help identify concrete solutions to unlock opportunities for full participation in our nation’s mobile-fueled innovation economy.

“African-Americans are way out front as avid wireless consumers, yet the community lags in terms of participation in the $548 billion and 7 million jobs mobile innovation contributes each year to the U.S. economy,” said pollster Cornell Belcher, president of brilliant corners Research & Strategies, which conducted the survey for Mobile Future. “With this project, we set out to engage the community to better understand not only why this gap exists, but far more importantly, to discover the pathway leading to economic empowerment and what concrete actions can help begin to turn things around.”

The survey is entitled Crossing the New Digital Divide: Connecting to Mobile Economic Empowerment Here are 10 of its top findings:

  • Progress on Access: 72% say they live in households with three or more connected devices.
  • Engaged consumers. A full 79% of respondents say mobile technology makes their lives easier.  And, 68% say they use their smartphones frequently—either multiple times a day (43%) or multiple times an hour (25%).
  • Mobile Tech=Consumer Tool: Most (59%) view mobile technology as a consumer tool versus a means of economic empowerment (24%).  Only 9% say it’s both.
  • Lack of Skills/Awareness: A majority (53%) identify lack of skills and low awareness of mobile tech economic opportunities as the biggest barriers to participation.
  • Local, Affordable Training Can Help: Low-cost training (47%) offered in communities (31%) and schools (26%) would increase interest in mobile tech careers. 
  • Significant Gender Gap: African-American women were far less likely to be interested in mobile tech jobs.  For example, while 45% of men expressed interest in becoming mobile app developers, just 31% of women said the same.
  • Strong entrepreneurial spirit. There is significantly more interest in using mobile technology to start or expand a business (48%) than to pursue it as a career path (33%).
  • Personal connections matter.  Half of respondents (50%) say they do not know anyone in their community who works in the technology industry.  Those who do are 56% more likely to express interest in being a mobile tech entrepreneur.
  • More information leads to more interest. After a brief discussion of mobile tech opportunities (via the survey), 8% shifted to express interest in mobile tech careers.
  • Relatable stories make opportunities real.  A case study citing use of mobile tech for both personal economic gain and community empowerment proved most persuasive (67%) overall, while millennial women (77%) found the flexibility often associated with mobile tech jobs most compelling.

“Mobile Future is proud to work with many companies and non-profit organizations on the front lines of improving diversity and economic opportunity in the tech space. These findings will help propel their efforts—and hopefully inspire many others to understand how they, too, can join this next chapter in the march to greater digital inclusion,” said Mobile Future Chair Jonathan Spalter. “Technology policy debates can get very esoteric very fast. This project is a reminder that real-world opportunities abound where we can all ‘lean in’—whether we’re in government, the private sector or community organizations—and make a real and lasting difference that can transform lives and whole communities.”

The poll of 800 African-Americans was conducted by telephone from January 14-25, 2016.  The survey’s sample was drawn randomly from voter files and geographically stratified for proportional representation.  The data also was weighted slightly to adhere to the population demographics of African-Americans.  The margin of error overall is +/- 3.5%.