Joint Center Report 2013: African Americans, Jobs and the Internet
The Internet is quickly becoming the indispensable tool for millions of Americans seeking a better job - or any job.
Following up on my initial blog post yesterday morning, that's the inescapable conclusion of a new report the Joint Center published this week about the Internet and employment. This jobs-Internet connection was also the focus of this morning's Joint Center panel discussion featuring FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and the Joint Center's John Horrigan, who analyzed the survey data and authored the report.
As Commissioner Clyburn said at the outset of her remarks, broadband access, which is the enabler of new technologies, is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity. Commenting on the survey's conclusions, she also emphasized the FCC's role in promoting more - and more affordable - broadband access.
Dr. Horrigan discussed the report's findings at length, relating it to other data concerning broadband adoption and use. As he noted, African-Americans in particular seem to be interested in more than just search engines. They are increasingly using social networking to expand their network of job contacts and improve the probability of finding out about job opportunities.
The Joint Center's report is based on a survey of 1,600 Americans concerning their use of wired and mobile broadband, particularly in researching employment opportunities. Among the survey's most important conclusions: African Americans are more likely than other segments of the population to use the Internet to seek and apply for employment. They are more likely to consider the Internet "very important" to the success of their job search.
Also speaking at yesterday's panel discussion were Chanelle Hardy from the National Urban League, AT&T's Ramona Carlow, Zack Leverenz, CEO of Connect2Compete, and Jason Llorenz of the Latino Information Network at Rutgers University.
Overall, this was a great event and the Joint Center is extremely proud of Dr. Horrigan's report and the important issues it raises. As he said toward the end of the session: digital skills are important, so investing in digital skills can help expand opportunity for all- and for African-Americans in particular.
It is important that government and industry continue to work with communities across the country to support digital literacy programs and that that commitment go hand-in-hand with public and private sector investment in high-speed broadband to every corner of America.
Leroy Jones, Jr.
Joint Center Report: The Internet's Importance in Finding a Job Is Bigger Than You Think
Today, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released a report on broadband and jobs that will help the African American community by informing the discussion of Internet access and its value for those in our community searching for jobs. Earlier this year, the Joint Center asked 1,600 Americans about their methods for job searches. This report reveals that African Americans were much more likely to find valuable job information online. They were also more likely to use social media and mobile devices as part of their job searches.
Specifically, fully half (50%) of African American Internet users said the Internet was "very important" to them in finding a job. That's significantly higher than the 36% average.
The survey results also showed that 36% of African Americans said they applied for a job online the last time they were on the job market, compared with 26% for all respondents.
Smartphones were an especially important part of the job search process for African Americans, as nearly half (47%) used their smartphone for job search. By comparison, slightly more than a third (36%) of Latinos used their smartphone for job search and about a quarter of whites (24%) did so.
The most recent federal unemployment figures show the continuing importance of helping people find work. The Labor Department's latest data shows that in September, the U.S. unemployment rate declined slightly to 7.2 percent. That figure masks both good and disappointing news. The good news is that the unemployment rate for African-American women aged 20+ is at 10 percent, the lowest rate since March 2009. The bad news: Overall black unemployment is still a dismal 12.9%.
For federal officials, particularly at the FCC, this report offers clear and decisive proof that those with Internet access have markedly better opportunities and are more empowered to find employment than those who do not. This includes using the Internet to increase knowledge about different jobs and industries, finding specific jobs, and completing the application process.
On Monday, President Obama-appointee Tom Wheeler officially became FCC Chairman, and he appears poised to move quickly to tackle important policy issues. One of these critically important issues is likely to involve wireless spectrum auctions. One very important aspect is a fact that was borne out by the Joint Center's report -- smartphone and mobile broadband use. As consumers surge in adopting mobile broadband options, wireless carriers must be allowed to compete in this auction without restrictions for the spectrum they need. That will be the best and quickest way to expand wireless broadband access, and to ensure that the innovative and creative mobile job opportunities continue to be met.
Beyond that, the report shows that programs to improve digital literacy and skills bring substantial benefits to the African American community. This reinforces one of the key conclusions of President Obama's 2010 National Broadband Plan. That document called for community based education to help Americans not already online understand the basics of the Internet, including using it to find employment.
There is no silver bullet that will magically bring down African American unemployment. But as the report demonstrates, the expansion of Internet access choices - especially wireless broadband - brings with it great and immediate benefits throughout the African American community.
Leroy Jones, Jr.
Yesterday's common-sense medical advice--"take two aspirin and call me in the morning"--is long gone. But in its place, how about "take these two apps and we'll video chat later"? We may not be far away from this, as mobile medical technologies, applications, and devices have delivered new, ingenious possibilities to doctors and patients alike.
Over the course of just a few short years, innovation has exploded to the point where mobile technologies and healthcare have joined. These exciting developments create the potential to increase access to quality, cost-efficient healthcare and improved health outcomes for patients. But before that can happen, we have challenges to address.
A recent Brookings Institution event, titled "The Modernization of Health Care Through Mobile Technology and Medical Monitoring Devices" identified many of these challenges and focused on the possible benefits of medical apps and devices. The panel discussion also focused on concerns such as how to encourage and incentivize patients, doctors, and other health care professionals to recognize and use these tools. The panel consisted of Asif Khan, CEO of Caremerge, which offers integrated mobile and online tools that facilitate better communication between care providers for seniors; Iltifat Husain, MD and founder of iMedicalApps.com, which provides physician reviews of medical and health apps; and Erik Augustson, Program Director of Tobacco Control Research at the National Cancer Institution.
The apps, devices, and capabilities made possible by advanced broadband technologies can deliver tremendous benefits and opportunities. In addition to monitoring devices that can help people manage a number of chronic diseases and conditions from the comfort of their own home, the panelists also discussed some tools that can deliver truly proactive, preventative healthcare that also empowers patients and helps caretakers.
Dr. Husain talked about a few "game changers," such as the development of smart pill bottles that can improve medication compliance by determining how many pills remain in the bottle and then sending text reminders to patients. Wireless sensors and monitors are increasingly being used for chronically ill patients to collect and transmit vital signs and other health data directly to health care providers, eliminating the need for sometimes cumbersome office visits. Health and fitness trackers and apps, already very popular for helping individuals set and reach wellness goals, might also be useful in assisting doctors identify early warning signs of disease in people who appear to be healthy. In fact, using these tools to track health information is so helpful that doctors are beginning to strongly recommend such apps for patients as a means to monitor their health.
But the discussion didn't just dwell on the newest and flashiest toys available. Erik Augustson spoke about the need to sort the tools from the toys and asked, "How do we build tools that really work?" He suggested that innovators and medical professionals think in terms of functionality, which should drive the development process and help encourage behavior changes and better health outcomes. However, a critical first set of questions for patients are: Does this app do what it is supposed to do? Does it provide accurate data/information? And Does it work for me?
All of the panelists spoke about what is needed for these mobile health tools to work: improving health literacy, targeting specific populations, improving functionality of apps, and changing the behaviors and practices of patients and healthcare professionals alike. They all had interesting suggestions and information to share. But absent from the discussion was a thorough examination of the limitations of our current communications infrastructure as well as the role its regulators should play.
The fact is that without a modernized, robust and dynamic wireless broadband infrastructure, those mHealth tools, apps, and devices won't be effective. Additional spectrum (the lifeblood of our networks and wireless devices that transmits this data in a mobile world) is needed to meet consumer demand, fuel innovation, and help carriers offer 21st century speeds and capabilities. It is critical that the FCC move quickly to make more spectrum available for consumer use, and to allow all carriers to compete without restrictions when competing for the spectrum needed. And without smart regulations that prioritize innovation and encourage broadband investment, both the development and use of additional mHealth tools and advancements could slow to a halt.
Technology is always evolving and changing every aspect of our lives. People reach for their mobile devices to help them accomplish any number of tasks and goals, and new mobile tools appear nearly every day that help us with that. The panelists at the Brookings event all spoke about how difficult it is to get people to change behaviors over the long term.
It's difficult to get agencies and regulators to change their ways too. But with the right regulations that encourage broadband investment and deployment, more people and communities will recognize the relevance of high-speed Internet services and the benefits these exciting mobile health technologies offer.