Access & Use of Technology

Preferred Methods of Communication & Types of Technology


Limited research on immigrants’ preferred types of information and communication technology (ICT) has been conducted to date. Initial findings indicate that while mobile technologies may offer promise in helping to narrow digital inequality, increased broadband access is just as essential. Among Latinos, the greatest divide between foreign- and native-born use of ICT exists with mobile technologies (Pew Hispanic Center, 2011). Underscoring the limitations of mobile technologies, the Public Policy Institute of California (2011a) found that Asians and Latinos are most likely to access the Internet in order conduct a job search, a task that is limited by mobile technologies.

Latino Immigrants’ Preferred ICT

Several studies conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center focusing on the Latino population help to give insight into the types of technologies immigrants are adopting. Comparisons between use of these different types technologies gives some insight into ICT preferences.

Figure 1: Latino Preferred Types of Communication and Technology (ages 26+) (Pew Hispanic Center, 2010a)

Figure 1: Latino Preferred Types of Communication and Technology (ages 26+) (Pew Hispanic Center, 2010a)

As seen in Figure 1, in general, native-born Latinos use ICT at higher rates than foreign-born Latinos. Focusing on the foreign-born population, over three-quarters of the population use landlines (76%), cell phones (89%), and e-mail (76%) to communicate with friends and family. Interestingly, there is no difference between native-born and foreign-born population in terms of e-mail use; 76 percent use email to communicate. When it comes to newer technologies such as text messaging and use of social networks, foreign-born preferences drop considerably to 39 percent (in both cases) (Pew Hispanic Center, 2010a).

Interestingly, the greatest observed divide between native-born and foreign-born ICT behaviors is that the foreign-born population is less inclined to use cell phone for both talking (8% difference) and texting (24% difference). Furthermore, immigrants are less likely than the native-born population to use non-voice applications (such as the Internet) on a cell phone—48% compared to 74% (Pew Hispanic Center, 2011). The Pew Hispanic Center (2011) found that this gap in cell phone use is partially fueled by the increases in use by that native-born population between 2009 to 2010, which was fueled by increased cell phone ownership of Latinos who are children of immigrants (which increased from 79% to 88% during this time).

ICT Preferences by Ethnicity

While no information regarding immigrant preferences for online activities were found in the surveyed literature, the Public Policy Institute of California’s 2011(a) study offers some insight by ethnicity (see figure 2). According to the study, Latinos are least likely to use the web as a form of self-expression either through twitter or blogging. Interestingly, while Asians are unlikely to use the Internet for a blog, a much higher proportion (45%) use it for twitter. Finally, both Latinos and Asians are most likely to use the web to look for information about a job, underscoring ICTs role in reinforcing socioeconomic differences.

Figure 2: Californian Internet Uses and Preferences by Race/Ethnicity, 2011 (Public Policy Institute of California, 2011a)

Figure 2: Californian Internet Uses and Preferences by Race/Ethnicity, 2011 (Public Policy Institute of California, 2011a)

About this project

The Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, a university research center with the mission to address the challenges and opportunities of demographic diversity in the 21st century global city, has produced these featured digital publications using the USC Media Curator, an online publishing platform designed to bring together innovative research from across the University of Southern California and beyond. This project curates research relevant for immigrant service providers on the topics of Access & Use of TechnologyAccess & Use of Financial ServicesNotario Fraud, and Driver's Licenses for the unauthorized.


THE TEAM: Carl Hayden Community High School Falcon Robotics Club

“Spare Parts” Documents the Struggles of Undocumented Immigrants in Technology

In 2004, four undocumented high school students Cristian Arcega, Lorenzo Santillan, Luis Aranda, and Oscar Vazquez, from Phoenix, Arizona competed in a naval robotics competition sponsored by NASA...more.