Luminaries in media and technology convened recently at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation panel discussion regarding how mobile technology is a “gamer changer” for black Americans.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, was the honorary session host at “Mobility: A Game Changer for African American Communities.” The discussion was part of the CBC Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference this week in Washington.
“There is no question that the Internet has changed the way the world works, and broadband capability has only expanded what is possible through the Internet,” said Mignon Clyburn, a member of the Federal Communications Commission. “As this technology has developed, information and services have become available to those who once had no access.”
Clyburn said it was important that people grow comfortable using mobile broadband technologies so that intimidation does not become a barrier. “It is important now more than ever before that we use each of these tools, that we engage with these individuals, that we use these technologies in order to enhance and uplift our communities,” she said.
The event was moderated by Dr. Nicol Turner Lee, vice president of the Media & Technology Institute of the Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies. Panelists included actor and filmmaker Robert Townsend; Jamal Simmons, co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance; David Owens, executive vice president of the Edison Electric Institute; Reggie Smith III, chairman of the United States Distance Learning Association; and Crystal Reed Evans, vice president and CCO of CTIS.
Several panelists referenced data that demonstrate that African Americans are a major segment of mobile broadband users and how many use mobile technology to access the Internet.
The consensus among the panelists was that mobile broadband technology is becoming an integral part of African American society.
“We live in a different world,” said Butterfield. “We’re living in a global economy now and technology is the centerpiece of the progress we’ve made over the last 10 years and will be in the future.”
Discussion hinged on the myriad ways in which wireless cell phone technology is aiding African Americans, such as treating and monitoring chronic diseases, extending education, assisting in daily activities such as banking and managing energy consumption.
Townsend mentioned how he has created media content fueled by broadband technology. He also showed a trailer of “In The Hive,” his latest movie. “In The Hive” tells the real-life story of how a school in North Carolina used broadband technology to help troubled African American youth with educational achievement.
The panelists discussed mobile health solutions, providing long distance learning through mobile technologies to improve educational endeavors, and deploying smart grid solutions through broadband technology to increase household energy efficiency.
The panelists also discussed how broadband creates jobs, the adoption barriers for broadband technology such as the cost of using mobile devices and the need for additional spectrum to deliver broadband service to more Americans.