THE BLOG
01/12/2011 05:30 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Dual Plan Hatched @CES to Tackle the Digital Divide

Earlier this week the U.S. Department of Labor released the most recent unemployment data, which revealed that the unemployment rate stood at 9.4%. Although, many economists see a silver lining that might demonstrate that our economy is rebounding because the unemployment rate has dipped to 9.4%, there are equally disturbing statistical trends embedded in today's unemployment report that could jeopardize the economic well being of millions of Americans in the years ahead. This week's unemployment report indicated that amongst African Americans and Hispanics unemployment has exceeded 15% with little evidence that the misery index free fall in communities of color will be aborted anytime soon.

Jobs historically available in the manufacturing sector have in many cases permanently vanished and public sector jobs where minorities have excelled now face severe budget cuts and calls for a streamlined system. As our society transitions into a digital based economy in the 21st century, there will be an urgent need to reset job skills in order for the average American to compete for jobs here at home. Digital literacy will be the paramount lifeline for every American who wants to achieve the treasured American dream of economic prosperity. Digital technology provides us with the tools to lessen income and economic disparities in our society.

The genesis of this statement of reality was clearly on display at the Consumer Electronics Show, which I attended this past weekend in Las Vegas.

In Vegas more than 120,000 individuals attended the 2011 CES Technology Conference, representing a huge global society connected through a diverse array of technological devices and applications that will forever change health care, commerce, education, energy and public safety distribution channels.

As I walked around the halls of the CES conference I was mindful of how these technologies impact the general public and the American consumer. It also brought to mind the closing deadline for comments for the FCC's bill shock proposal -- a proposal aimed at protecting consumers from bill shock. While the intentions are in the right place, bill shock has the potential to raise wireless prices for everyday customers. These new and unnecessary rules would cost money that would in turn be passed onto consumers, which is bad news for minority Americans who currently lead the country in wireless broadband usage.

One of America's more innovative purveyors of closing the digital divide, Dr. Paul Jacobs, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Qualcomm took a giant step in the right direction with Qualcomm's acquisition of San Jose based, Atheros Communications (parent company of the manufacturer of Bluetooth) for $3.1 billion. Qualcomm's purchase of Atheros is important and historic because it creates potentially, an enormous market of futuristic electronic wireless devices, which will be connected to each other such as linking cars, notebooks, tablets, TVs, smartphones and home appliances. It's going to be huge. You are going to be able to sit on your sofa and check to see what's in your refrigerator or if you are in your car miles away from your home, you will be able to push a button in your car to turn on your washing machine to wash the laundry.

Dr. Jacobs believes that the public and private sectors must work hand-in-hand together to implement creative pathways within the digital ecosystem in order to ensure that economic disparities are minimized, if we are to truly achieve equality in our society. ADE believes that the Internet is the solution and the creativity of the private sector must lead the way, also that we need to work to preserve the future vitality of economic drivers and qualifiers like the wireless industry. More than ever wireless is leading the way and is helping communities of color connect and access the power of the Internet. For minorities the ability to "go wireless" represents future prosperity and opportunity.

As we look forward, we must continue to work with public policy makers and the private sector on approaches to lower the cost of broadband so that Americans have equal access to the good jobs and economic and educational opportunities that come with broadband expansion. This includes working on ensuring that access to wireless broadband remains equal and affordable. Equal and affordable access to these benefits will prove to be a critical step to improving the unemployment situation that we currently face on our road to recovery.

Working together, we have the ability to overcome the economic difficulties that we currently face. We can prevail, but in our efforts to do so we must ensure equality. This will lead to a better and stronger America.

Julius H. Hollis is the CEO of the Alliance for Digital Equality, a non-profit organization that receives funding from a wide array of organizations including those from the telecommunications, energy and entertainment sectors.