Local Internet Cafés Still Waiting for Hispanics to Connect

Internet café’s in Tweedy Boulevard believe there businesses are well positioned. This is because the number of Hispanics engaging with the technology continues to grow and continue to seek their help when connecting to the Internet.

Internet cafés in South Gate are not closing shop and moving elsewhere. This is because a large number of residents are making use of these establishments to access the Internet, as well as other computer related tasks. Hispanics, which make up over 90 percent of South Gate, are becoming more adept in their use of technology, and local Internet cafe’s are noticing this.

“We are making more money,” said Ever Cruz, 26, a computer technician at Sixthstar Computers Cyber Café on Tweedy Boulevard. “We have not gone backwards.”

According to a 2011 study by the Pew Hispanic Center, two thirds of Hispanic adults connected to the Internet in 2010. This level of connectivity lags behind the three fourths of the white adults who connected during the same time. The report cited the differences in education and income between these two groups as the main reason for the gap.

"The difference in internet use between Hispanics and whites is driven in part by the fact that Hispanics tend to have less education and lower incomes than whites," wrote Gretchen Livingston, author of the report.

Although U.S Hispanics are trailing in connectivity, their overall growth is healthy and aggressive. With a study by ComScore, a market research company, showing that the rate of growth for Internet usage by Hispanics outpaces that of the whole national population.

Sixthstar, which got off to a slow start when it was founded in 2007, is optimistic about the future. The business had had two years of successful growth, with revenue in 2011 increasing approximately by 15 to 20 percent.

Cruz believes that an important reason behind this success was their decision to meet the digital teaching needs of a lot of their clientele, which like South Gate, is predominantly Hispanic.

Many customers’ come to Sixthstar with a desire to use the Internet or a computer, but have little to no knowledge of how to do so.  

“They need help,” said Cruz. “So, we actually take the time to teach them little things here and there.” 

Charles Figueroa, owner of on Tweedy Boulevard, also admitted to using this educational approach to entice customers at his cyber cafe.

“A lot of people are still scared of computers,” said Figueroa “They think they are going to damage them, so I ensure them that this will not happen,“

Juan Desales, 25, a customer sales representative at Sixthstar, confirms that this pedagogic strategy has been a fruitful endeavor, and that it has led to referrals from customers they have helped.

“We have grown here because of recommendations,” said Desales “If they have relatives who don’t know how to use a computer, we get recommended.”

Sixthstar’s help approach has also created some loyal customers, such as Patrick Vincent, 64, whose both Hispanic and Native American.

Vincent first started frequenting Internet café’s several years ago out of desire to learn more about technology, and part of the reason he still frequents them is for this very reason.

“They offer help and it is for free,” said Vincent in reference to Sixthstar, while sitting on a rented computer. “They wont stay with you for half an hour, but at least a few minutes, so you can get some help.”

For example, Vincent, who is currently single, was recently trying to upload his picture to a dating a site. However, he got stuck in the process and needed some guidance to finish it.

“A fellow here taught me how to do it,” said Vincent. “Next time I wont have to bother anyone and I will do it on my own.”

Despite the apparent continuous growth of Hispanic’s accessing the Internet, there are some who have seen economic factors offset the trend, and who therefore warn about them.

“It will depend on the economy,” said Figueroa, who confessed that his 9-year-old Internet café saw an approximate 20 percent decrease in yearly revenue from 2010 to 2011. He attributed this dip to the weak economy. 

Hispanic’s still have a high national unemployment rate, with the latest March numbers standing at 10.3 percent, according to the Department of Labor. South Gate’s unemployment rate stood at an even worse rate, 15.3 percent in February, which is the latest statistic from the Department of Labor.

Figueroa said that peoples desire to save money and look for jobs could result in more business for Internet café’s. 

“People look online for a jobs, and also print their applications,” said Figueroa. “A lot of people can’t afford internet, so it might help us.”

However, he also warns that this economic reality might not necessarily translate into an increase in business.

“People are reluctant to spend money, so they save,” said Figueroa, in reference to why his revenue decreased during these tough economic times. “So in a way it does [help us], and in a way it doesn’t, it is a double edge sword.”

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