CIVIL RIGHTS COALITION STATES SIMPLISTIC NOTION OF DIGITAL DIVIDE REFLECTS MISUNDERSTANDING OF POWER AND
REACH OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Contact: Cory Smith
February 7, 2002
Washington, D.C. ? Wade Henderson, Executive Director, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest and largest civil and human rights coalition, issued the following statement regarding the latest digital divide report released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet:
“The most recent digital divide report paints an overly optimistic picture of Americans’ access to and use of information technology. While the data clearly shows that there are increasing numbers of Americans connected to the Internet, broadband services, and computers, the data does not accurately capture another more disturbing reality.
The real digital divide is about far more than just the gap between technology “haves” and “have-nots.” Rather, at its core, the divide is about an information knowledge gap between the “information literate” and the “information illiterate.”
With the proliferation of information technology throughout nearly every aspect of our society, the impact of this knowledge gap on our social, economic, and political health is greater than ever before. 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.
One need only compare schools, hospitals or small businesses in low-income neighborhoods and more wealthy neighborhoods to see first-hand how the divide between the information literate and the information illiterate continues to grow. There is no more urgent task facing this Administration that ensuring all Americans share in the information revolution that is transforming the nation’s economic, political, social and cultural life.
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 create policies and programs that provide people 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. Now is the time to expand these programs and open this door of opportunity for more Americans ? not slam it shut to those most in need.
The federal government must continue playing a significant role in assuring that all Americans have the access and skills needed to participate fully in the Digital Age. The Leadership Conference will work to educate this Administration and the Congress about the real digital divide and the critical need for the federal government to continue monitoring these issues though annual reports. Continuing to focus only on the positive aspects of the transition to the Digital Age while ignoring the negative, as this most recent report does, however, will not serve this nation well, economically, socially, and politically.”