African Americans Building Tech Creators Not Consumers
As I teach Educational Technology in higher education I see a
disturbing trend that too many African American young adults
are happy being consumers of technology and not creators.
Consumptions of tech takes monies away from the community
while creators re-invest and re-invigorate the community.
They inspire youth, teens and other young adults to follow their
journey to increase their educational opportunities and networking
exposure. African Americans will not benefit from the continued
advancements and engagement of technology because of the lack
of African American role models.
“The building of content, creation of Apps, and the
integration of technology for African Americans is
only part of the battle to create an employable workforce.”
William Jackson, Edward Waters College
Educational Technology Instructor
In a BET survey (2010) African Americans spent about 39 billion
dollars that went towards purchasing technology. The purchase
of computers, cell phones, tablets, watches and other digital
equipment shows that African Americans are connected and
plugged in. They are sharing content which includes text, photos,
video and audio files. The complexity and diversity of the software
platforms and tools allows for interactivity and the integration of
programs and Apps that simplify and allow for engagement on
This connected power is in the form of African American consumers
where monies are taken away from their communities that are
struggling with high crime rates, low educational successes, struggling
schools, under-employed men and women who often times
supplement their incomes with state or federal assistance programs.
Too many are under-employed because they are under-educated.
The inclusion of African Americans is questioned when decisions
are being made to bring in employers that are providing jobs, but
at a level where technology skills and the initiative to learn how
to integrate technology is needed. What stops too many African
Americans is either they don’t have basic tech skills or they have a
criminal background that includes felonies and they can’t enroll
in schools to gain tech knowledge.
Educational programs that are provided by school districts, colleges,
community action groups and individuals are needed to prepare
African American children to be producers not just consumers.
Education is the best investment to re-invest in communities to
encourage the building of a foundation for re-investment to build
communities and change the dynamic of consumers to creators.
Surveys and studies show that African Americans are slowly climbing
the technology ladder by creating Web content, blogging on
community issues, micro-blogging (Twitter) about events that
directly influence their socio-economic status. The Pew
Research Center (2011) is showing that African Americans
are moving into careers that incorporate and integrate tech,
but more needs to be done on the creativity side not the
Wealth and influence are found when African Americans are
building Apps that perform a desired function, programming
in code for computer applications or Smartphones, computer
software, and even web page development are valuable skills
that are needed in corporate environments and increasingly
in medical and military environments. The consistent use of
Twitter (Microblogging) and Facebook by African Americans
can be seen when Twitter feeds are packed with information
about the latest episodes of “Scandal” and “Empire.”
Advertisers are seeing these trends and responding with ads
on Facebook feeds, on Youtube channels and increasingly
attached to other digital transmissions to encourage revenue
in products and services that beg for attention. The percentage
of African American businesses involved is less than 2% Nielsen 2012.
Nielsen surveys from 2011 show that African American TV habits
are spending 40% more time watching shows especially premium cable
channels than any other group. During these activities African
Americans are using mobile technologies to Tweet, FB, and other
tech to talk about and share information about these programs with
family and friends even during the shows air times. This shows the
diversity and strength of technologies that instantly travels from across
a room to thousands of miles in an instant to share information.
Text, video, audio and multimedia elements are imbedded in
digital media so engagement is easy and seamless. The scalability
is found in software that allows for increased functionality not
through cumbersome hardware that grows outdated in months.
The power of information can be seen in cable news programs that
feed information from around the world; this information feeds that
need or desire to be connected. The danger is the power of the media
to influence the thinking, rationalization and decision making of millions.
Opinions are shaped and molded by the media. Recent situations where
the media was in error with facts has caused people to question not
only their trust in the media, but the power to influence the minds and
actions of people according to gender, culture, age and sexual orientation.
African Americans must increase their involvement in the creative
aspects of technology in developing Apps, learning to computer code,
and dynamically create content that truthfully tells their story as is relates
to being an American. Allowing someone else to tell your story can create
misinterpretation of a person’s actions, interaction and engagement
with groups and people that share or are against political or religious
doctrines. The power of managing and manipulating information can be
seen with ISIS and their attempts and successes in recruiting for their
group using Social Media. The posting of military service information
with addresses and other personal information. Dramatic events
that threaten men and women of the military in the United States Armed
Forces from simple online content. All information gained from researching
online Social Media resources are being used to now threaten them and
African Americans use more mobile voice minutes per month than
any other group, anywhere from 1200 to 2000 minutes to share information
with family, friends and others (Nielsen April 2011). The power of
communication and information sharing. In order for African Americans
to truly be influential is to make transformative moves from consumers to
creators and create an educational paradigm shift that schools
especially in the African American community start to teach tech skills
that engage and empower for current and future careers.