Civil Rights Coalition Proud to Sponsor Digital Empowerment Campaign

Media 05.16.02

Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation’s oldest, largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, issued the following statement today at the launch of the Digital Empowerment Campaign:

“On behalf of the Digital Empowerment coalition, comprising over 100 national and local organizations working to preserve and strengthen the federal government’s leadership in expanding opportunity in the Digital Age, I want to welcome you to the launch of the Digital Empowerment Campaign.

Today’s event is the first in a series of events that will take place over the next several months all across the nation in support of continued federal funding of community technology programs.

At the outset, I want to stress that expanding opportunity in the digital age generally and supporting community technology programs in particular, is not now, nor has it ever been a partisan issue.
Recognizing that no one should be left behind in the coming information age, both the executive and legislative branches, working in bipartisan fashion, have played important leadership roles in bridging the knowledge gap between the “information haves” and the “have-nots” — what some refer to as the digital divide.
This leadership has helped to accelerate the adoption of 21st Century literacy skills among economically and geographically distressed and otherwise underserved communities. Today’s event and future events will continue building on that bipartisan spirit.
Two days from now will mark the 48th Anniversary of the historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that the “separate
but equal doctrine” was unconstitutional. In doing so, the Court removed what at that time, was the single-greatest legal barrier for all persons, but particularly African Americans, to participate fully in our society.

Since that time, the nation has made tremendous progress in breaking down other legal barriers that have kept individuals from enjoying full participation in American society. But there is still work to be done.

Today, we stand at the dawn of a new information and communications revolution that is transforming every aspect of our society. At its best, this revolution is about expanding opportunity for all in our society. But not all Americans are sharing the benefits of this progress. Research continues to demonstrate gaps in access and use of technology still persist in our nation.

As more and more interactions and transactions occur using information technology – from e-commerce to e-government ? we are at risk of alienating a large part of America not only from a robust world of information opportunities, goods and services, but from the political “marketplace” as well.

While pro-competition policies will continue to make new technologies more affordable, there is too much at stake to leave this to the market alone.

Government can and should continue supporting/creating policies and programs that provide all individuals, but particularly those in underserved communities, the opportunity to gain the knowledge and understanding to use technology to change their lives as well as guard against the creation of new fault lines isolating people from the new economy and society in general.
The importance that this nation places on advancing digital opportunity will go a long way in determining the strength and success of our national economy, the quality of public education, and ultimately our ability to compete in the global economy of the 21st Century.
Toward this end, LCCR and its sister organization, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, have joined forces with Policy Link, CTC Net, and over 100 other national and local organizations to create the Digital Empowerment Campaign, the immediate goal of which is to ensure that two important community technology programs continue to be funded.
· The Technology Opportunities Program administered by the Department of Commerce and
· The Community Technology Centers program administered by the Department of Education.
Today, the Digital Empowerment Coalition is sending a letter to the Congress urging full funding for these important programs.

Over the next several months, representatives from the Digital Empowerment Campaign will travel to communities across the country to mobilize additional support for community technology programs.

Notably, the campaign will be using technology to help educate the nation about these programs and to coordinate the campaign. A campaign website located at will play a central role in these efforts..

The site contains state-by-state report cards demonstrating how the federal government, working in bipartisan fashion, has played an important leadership role in ensuring that all individuals, particularly those in underserved communities, are able to participate fully in the digital age. You will also find there dozens of success stories submitted directly to the site by beneficiaries of these programs.

This morning, you will be hearing from several excellent speakers who will help educate us about these very important programs.

At this point, I would like to turn the discussion over to our leader on these issues, Senator Max Cleland who, in working with his colleagues Senator Olympia Snowe and Senator Barbara Mikulski, has demonstrated that expanding opportunity in the Digital Age is not a partisan issue, but an American issue.”