Constrained access to the Internet and communication technologies is commonly associated with social inequality. Policymakers in many sectors—and particularly, in education—have placed their bets on increased access to technology having the potential to mitigate broader social disparities. The relationships between digital and social equity suggest that meaningful connectivity—that is, having the technical skills necessary to engage technology and mobilize digital resources to address everyday needs—can empower socially disenfranchised individuals, families, and communities. In the context of a national digital equity initiative, this study examines how parents and children of low-income Latino families incorporate new technologies into their everyday lives. Through a comparison of three demographically similar communities where discounted broadband is being offered, we present a bottom-up, communication-centered perspective on a top-down technology policy. Our ecological approach considers the intersection of macro- and meso-level factors that influence Latino families’ perceptions of technology and that shape their consequent adoption and integration decisions.
Carmen Gonzalez is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington. Through community-based, multi-method research, her work examines the communication practices of immigrant and minority populations in the contexts of health promotion and civic engagement. In her current work she investigates how Latino families engage digital technologies and how access to technology can be leveraged to support individual and community empowerment. Prior to joining the UW, she was a postdoctoral researcher at Rutgers University. She holds a PhD in Communication and a BA in Journalism and Chicano Studies from the University of Southern California.