This paper is about the technological divide that exists in
the United States. It determines who are affected by the
digital divide, who are being left behind in the divide, and
how to decrease the gap between the haves and the have nots
are effected by race, education, and finance . The statistics
show that "The reality is if you’re not plugged into the Internet
in the near future you’re going to be unplugged from job opportunities,
unplugged from consumer opportunities, from finance opportunities.(Barrales)"
With the advancements on the divide made by President Clinton
hopefully the divide can ne narrowed
As stated by Ruben Barrales, the President
of Joint Venture in Silicon Valley Network, “The reality is
if you’re not plugged into the Internet in the near future you’re
going to be unplugged from job opportunities, unplugged from
consumer opportunities, from finance opportunities.” The
Internet is a source of information that is continually shaping
roles in society. As the Internet becomes more important
to the job market and education, one begins to question what
will happen to those who are being left behind in this digital
revolution? Who are exactly being left behind in the digital
revolution? Does it matter that the Internet as a whole
is not geared to other races and the homeless? How can
we bridge the gap between the haves and have not concerning
technology? These questions in part were answered when
President Clinton traveled to many Native American reservations
discussing the need for the poor to be included in the growth
of technology in America. Although there has been much
debate over whether or not there should be any extra effort
in getting the poor involved in using the Internet and whether
there is an actually divide in technology among the races, it
is vital to the country’s prosperity that those who are being
left out to learn how to use the Internet, because these people
would no longer be able to support themselves financially.
“The problem with the Internet community
is that there are … too many white guys in the room,” says Andrew
“Flip” Filipowski, himself a white man and CEO of an Internet
start-up called Divine InterVentures. As we begin to identify
those that are being left behind in the digital revolution it
is hard to deny the fact that race plays a major role in the
divide. The Internet, which is meant to serve as a mean of communication,
employment, and has many other uses that does not benefit everyone.
The digital divide is such an important topic that President
Clinton discussed its causes and how to remedy the problem as
he traveled across the United States. When looking at the divide
in deeper detail Clinton found that in East Palo Alto, a community
of 28,000 Blacks and Hispanics, which is only a few miles away
from the wealthy Silicon Valley, where the ratio of students
to computers are twenty-eight students to one computer.
Silicon Valley is full of potential job opportunities for the
people of Palo Alto, but how can they, if they are not accustomed
to computer technology?
The digital divide is not only contained
in urban areas. The digital divide is not
only a problem with not having computers and not logging on
the Internet. One of the biggest problems is that many
of the nation poor households do not have access to telephones.
The United States rural areas also experience a lack of technology.
A Commerce Department report in July found that households earning
$75,000 or more in urban areas are more than 20 times as likely
to have Internet access as rural households at the lowest income
levels. Black and Hispanic households are two-fifths as
likely to have Internet access as white households. () How can
these people have access to the Internet if they do not even
have telephone lines? There are many other studies that
show that whites are much further ahead in advancements of technology
than other minority groups.
According to the Vanderbilt study performed
by Thomas P. Novak and Donna L. Hoffman, “Bridging the Digital
Divide: The Impact of Race on Computer Access and Internet Use,”
there is a huge gap between whites on the Internet and African
Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.
It was shown that whites are more likely to own a computer at
home than African Americans (44.2 percent versus 29.0 percent),
and to have access to computers at work (38.5 percent versus
33.8 percent). The study also showed that as of January
1997 only 5.2 million African Americans and 40.8 million Whites
had ever used the Internet. Hoffman and Novak found that
with higher education African Americans are more likely to use
the Net, but what is shocking is the number of African American
and White students on the Internet. Among students who
did not own a computer more white students used the Net more
than black students. Also 73 percent of white students
own a computer while only 32 percent of African American students
own a computer.
The statistics are even worse for Native
Americans. According to the study, Falling Through the
Net: Defining the Digital Divide, July 1999 only 26.9
percent of rural Native American households had access to computers
compared to the national average of 42.1 percent. Compared
to the national average of 26.2 percent only 18.9 percent of
Native American households had access to the Internet.
The report found about 47 percent of all whites own computers,
but fewer than half as many blacks do. About 25.5 percent of
Hispanics own computers, but 55 percent of Asian-Americans do.
Asian families also are most likely to have Internet access,
with 36 percent online.(Falling Through the Net) From this statistic
it can said that some minority groups are more welcomed into
the technological world than others. The digital divide
survives because of stereotypes, which in turn these stereotypes
affect the financial status of those that are caught up in the
divide. As of April of this year the Forrester Research
reported that 43 percent of Caucasians, 33 percent of African
American, 47 percent of Hispanics, 69 percent of Asian Americans,
and 43 percent of all households are connected to the Internet.
There are many causes and consequences
to the digital divide. As Novak and Hoffman explains,
The consequences…of a persistent racial
divide on the Internet may be severe, if a significant segment
of our society is denied equal access to the Internet, U.S.
firms will lack the technological skills needed to remain competitive.
Race matters to the extent that societal biases have either
required African Americans to obtain higher education levels
in order to achieve the same income as whites, or resulted in
older African Americans not being able to achieve high incomes.(Borland)
There is no doubt that income plays a role
in the number of Americans using the Internet, but to what extent
does race effects income? It is a known fact that minorities,
especially African Americans are paid less for the same job
as their white counterparts. With this fact how can African
Americans catch up with technology without help?
African Americans have and still will be
poorly educated. If many of the African American students
are not from affluent neighborhoods or in any case middle class
white neighborhoods, then these students will face disadvantages
that their white counterparts will not see. It is a known
fact that the Internet helps students achieve better grades.
In wealthy schools (less than 11 percent of students eligible
for free or reduced-price school lunch), 74 percent of classrooms
are connected to the Internet, compared to 39 percent for the
poorest schools (71 percent or more of students eligible for
free or reduced-price school lunch) (Fall 1999 data, Dept of
Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Internet
Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms," February 2000).
Many schools in the urban ghettos do not have adequate libraries.
If a computer or Internet was present in the home or at school
the child could use the information to help them with their
Anthony Walton states, “Blacks have participated
as equals in the technological world only as consumers, otherwise
existing on the margins of the ethos that defines a nation,
underrepresented as designers, innovators, and implementers
of our systems and machines.” As of right now the number
of African American, Native American, and Hispanics majoring
in some type of science or mathematics is decreasing.
African Americans make up 13 percent of the population in the
United States, but as of 1995 only 1.3 percent earned Ph.D’s
in computer science, 2.1 percent in engineering, 1.5 percent
in physical sciences, and 0.6 in mathematics. (Walton) It can
be said that many of these jobs are not geared toward minorities.
The likelihood of an African American student majoring in computer
science or computer engineering with no forehand experience
in programming or computers is very slim to none, but it is
not impossible for a student of this stature to excel.
This student would have to spend the rest of the college life
playing catch up with their counterparts who already have had
some experience in those technological fields.
The digital divide not only effects education
it also affects jobs as well. In a more current analysis
by the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering
(NACME) reported that there was a decline in the number of African
American, Native American, and Hispanics enrollment in engineering
from 1992 to 1997. “There were 1576 fewer
minority freshmen in 1996 than in 1992,
and the proportion of minority students fell from 4.7 percent
in 1989 to 3.6 percent in 1995”. George Campbell
Jr., President of NACME, puts some of the blame on the backlash
of affirmative action. Some quotas of Affirmative Action
are still needed in this country, because minority students
are not getting an equal education in elementary and high schools
compared to the majority in this country and the United States
as a whole still holds some of its prejudices. One can say that
the Internet serves as a barrier like the low overpasses constructed
by Robert Moses that kept African Americans and the poor from
reaching the middle class and wealthy neighborhoods of New York.
The lack of the Internet in the homes of the poor keeps them
from reaching a level of prosperity that the other citizens
in America seem to
enjoy. Mario Morino of the Morino Institute
comments, “The digital divide is a manifestation of economic
and educational gaps that have existed in this country long
before the microchip and the Internet were invented. Digital
divide is a term as demeaning as one from a past era, They live
on the wrong side of the tracks.”(Cisler)
How will the digital divide effect the
future citizens of America? As the Hispanic population continues
to rise and if the digital divide continues to grow many people
will sink into deep poverty or homelessness. Each
and everyday it is more prevalent that the Internet is changing
the society as a whole, and is also changing the job market
everyday. “The shift of the American economy from goods
production to services over the past quarter century has substantially
altered labor markets and the demand for workers, especially
in the cities of the Midwest and Northeast.” It will be
hard for people to find
jobs because they lack computer skills and
eventually the computer will take some of the jobs that are
now being performed by humans now. Also the homeless population
continues to grow as the market becomes more technological.
African Americans make up the largest homeless population, which
was 49 percent in the 1998. Because of the technological
market continues to grow more minorities are becoming homeless.
There are those who still do not see why
closing the digital divide is so important. “The United
States is currently confronting what can be best described as
another Industrial Revolution. The rapid acceleration
of computer and telecommunications technologies is a major reason
for the appreciable increase in our productivity in this expansion,
and is likely to continue to be a significant force in expanding
standards of living into the twenty-first century.” (Alan Greenspan)
Many of them will only begin to think about the divide when
it affects their pockets. For example many Americans see
welfare as a burden that takes money from their families.
As the number of people living in poverty and the number of
homeless continues to grow someone will have to find ways to
help these people get their lives back in track. For exampled,
the trends show that computers skills will be needed to perform
in the job market of the future. Therefore if the poor
in today’s society cannot afford a computer how will they be
able to better themselves in the future? And for those
who still say that it is not my problem, it is apparent that
they have not thought about these issues.
How can America as a whole change
the current trend that is heading toward those who have not
used the Internet or computers becoming desperate and homeless?
As of this moment President Clinton is implementing plans that
will close the digital divide. Clinton has asked the nation’s
companies and citizens to help him achieve the goal of every
child in the nation to be logged on to the Internet, make the
Internet universal in every home, and tutor adults in using
the Internet. Clinton states, “We all know there are people
and places that have not fully participated in this new economy.
I see these places as places of opportunity, if we can create
new employees, new businesses, new jobs, new opportunities,
we can keep the American economy going.” Many companies are
donating money, training for teachers, and equipment to those
who lack the technological services. Companies such
as Qualcomm, Microsoft, America Online, Novell, Hewitt-Packard,
and Gateway have all donated money to the cause. Even
telephone customers will foot some of the cost for bridging
the gap. There will be a 0.4 percent increase in the long
distance surcharge on telephone bills. The decreasing
costs of computers are allowing more people a chance to
tap into technology.
As Carvin states, "The digital divide
is one of the most important civil rights issues facing our
modern information economy. As telecommunications increasingly
entwines itself with educational, social, financial, and employment
opportunities, those communities lacking access will find themselves
falling further behind the rest of society. The Internet has
the potential to empower its users with new skills, new perspectives,
new freedoms, even new voices; those groups who remain sequestered
from the technology will be further segregated into the periphery
of public life." Technology is important to society and
to the prosperity of the United Sates and its people.
It is up to the those who are ahead of others in the advancement
of technology to get everyone else involved.