African Americans connect to the Internet, and have broadband access in their homes at lower rates than their White counterparts, according to the Pew Research Center.  Diversity numbers for the nation’s largest tech firms are woefully inadequate, with Blacks in particular making up only one percent of those employed in tech positions at Facebook, Google, and Twitter; and no more than six percent at Apple, Microsoft and Ebay.

Only 14 percent of African-American eighth graders score at or above proficient in math, compared to 44 percent of Whites, according to a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

While these numbers are troubling, there is some evidence to suggest that this “digital divide”—the racial gap in access to and proficiency in digital technology and related areas—could close over time. Pew has found that Internet connected smartphone ownership among Blacks and Whites is roughly the same, and that younger African Americans (ages 18-29) utilize social media at somewhat higher rates than Whites in the same age group.

Those numbers are only cause for hope, however, if tech companies, and the country as a whole, are putting themselves in a position to take advantage of such developments.

The AFRO is presenting a four-part series addressing the digital divide in America.  Among the topics covered will be net neutrality; employment diversity in Silicon Valley; funding for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education efforts; and the way the discriminatory practice of redlining has made the digital divide worse in parts of the country.

With this series, the reader will have a focused look at the current state of the digital divide and the challenges it presents. Each challenge, however, is also a locus of opportunity, an arena in which sustained effort can alter the current, unequal trajectory if there is willingness to act.

We begin this week with Saschane Stephenson’s article on what has come to be known as net neutrality.

ralejandro@afro.com