In an effort to close the technology gap between America’s white and black citizens, U.S. Commerce Secretary William Daley publicly pledged to address the issue at a national conference this fall. D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, who is black and a Dartmouth graduate, joined Daley in the announcement.
Washington, the center of the U.S. government, is “Exhibit A” of this so-called “digital divide.” As the city’s white citizens and businesses gain access to computers and the Internet, their black and other minority counterparts lag far behind.
Washington is, however, one of a handful of cities that will get new computer equipment and Internet training provided by the AT&T Foundation in conjunction with both the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The Urban League plans to use the AT&T grant to establish a new technology center in Southeast D.C. and improve the current training facility in the Northeast sector. AT&T has also published a new resource guide to help communities integrate technology into community centers.
Noting that one-third of America’s economic growth in recent years has come from information technologies, Daley argued that the long-term benefit of putting new computers within the reach of more people is obvious. “Much of this great growth we have had, and this job creation — some 19 million new jobs — and low inflation, is a direct result of computers,” he said.
“Cooperative projects like this center and the commitment of our corporate leaders to partner with groups like the Urban League are the kinds of actions that will close the gap,” Daley said. The secretary hopes that the conference will give major technology companies, civil rights organizations, civic leaders and community groups a chance to explore more ways to provide technology to underserviced communities.
Microsoft, also represented at Wednesday’s event, announced that it will supply state-of-the-art software for urban technology centers.
Daley’s planned “digital divide” conference is part of the Clinton administration’s New Markets Initiative, a general plan to help communities with sagging economies attract new domestic investors. “The fact of the matter is, for minorities, unemployment rates are still higher than they are for the rest of the country. The surest way to help turn things around is to get American companies investing in America’s inner cities, which are good sources of customers and workers,” Daley said.