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White House Hails Narrowing Of 'Digital Divide'
By David McGuire, Newsbytes
16 Oct 2000, 1:20 PM CST

Traditional information technology "have-nots" (minorities, seniors and rural residents) are making rapid gains in computer ownership and Internet access, according to a report released today by the US Commerce Department.

President Clinton hailed the results of the report, which is the fourth installment in the Commerce Department's "Falling Through The Net" series, which tracks the so-called "digital divide."

"Although much more remains to be done to bridge the digital divide and create digital opportunity for all Americans, I am especially pleased that many low-income, rural and minority households are beginning to 'get connected' at rates faster than the national average," Clinton said in a statement today.

In addition to tracking strong growth in overall US computer ownership rates - 51 percent of all homes now have computers, compared to slightly more than 42 percent in December 1998 - the report showed even more marked gains by minorities and rural residents.

While Internet access and computer ownership rates for African Americans continue to lag far behind those of white and Asian Americans, black households are now more than twice as likely to have home Internet access than they were 20 months ago, the report found.

More than 23 percent of African Americans now have home Internet access, compared to 11.2 percent in December 1998.

But while the African Americans have made substantial gains, home Internet penetration in the black community remains only about half the national average. More than 41 percent of American homes have Internet access, according to the report.

"There has been some progress in closing the gap," Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta told reporters during a conference call today. But substantial work remains to be done if minorities, seniors and people with disabilities are to catch up with educated white and Asian Americans, Mineta said.

One aspect of the digital divide that appears to have fully eroded is the gender gap. The report showed virtually no difference between males and females in the areas of Internet connectivity and Internet ownership.

But some gaps remain difficult to bridge, Mineta said. "The discouraging news is that people with disabilities are only half as likely (based on the national average) to have Internet access," he said.

This report was also the first in the falling through the net series to track broadband access rates.

While the report appears to point to several areas that need attention, Mineta said the administration would focus the brunt of its efforts on beefing up rural Internet accessibility.

The Commerce Department report is available as a PDF file at .

Reported by, .

13:20 CST




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