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December 9, 1999

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"Together we have the power to determine exactly what we want the Internet to become... to be an instrument of empowerment, education, enlightenment, economic advance and community-building all across America, regardless of the race, the income, the geography of our citizens."

President Bill Clinton
Thursday, December 9, 1999

Today, at the White House, President Clinton addressed high-tech CEOs and civil rights, education, and non-profit leaders on the digital divide - the growing division in the U.S.between information “haves” and “have-nots.” The President announced that he will lead a trip next spring to focus attention on the digital divide, and will issue a directive to his Cabinet to take specific actions to address this challenge. He also announced several commitments from non-profit organizations and the private sector to help close the divide.

The Importance of Bridging the Digital Divide. Access to computers and the Internet and the ability to effectively use this technology are becoming increasingly important for full participation in America's economic, political and social life. Access to computers and the Internet has exploded during the Clinton-Gore Administration. Unfortunately, there is strong evidence of a “digital divide” – a gap between those individuals and communities that have access to these Information Age tools and those who do not.

From Digital Divide to Digital Opportunity. Today, Secretary of Commerce William Daley convened the first Digital Divide Summit, a roundtable with high-technology CEOs and civil rights, education, and non-profit leaders on ways to bridge the divide. In remarks to summit participants, President Clinton announced actions that will help create digital opportunity for more Americans:

  • A trip next spring by the President and top CEOs to disadvantaged urban and rural communities to focus national attention on the digital divide and help mobilize private and public efforts;

  • A directive to members of the Cabinet to take specific actions to close the digital divide, such as expanding Community Technology Centers in low-income urban and rural neighborhoods, continuing to measure the extent of the digital divide, and helping low-income workers gain the skills they need to compete for high-paying information technology jobs;

  • The launch of the Digital Divide Network, an Internet-based clearinghouse of information on public and private efforts to bring technology to underserved communities;

  • The formation of the Digital Opportunity Partnership, an alliance between the private sector and civil and human rights organizations to bring high technology to the doorstep of nonprofit organizations; and

  • A commitment by the Congress of National Black Churches to make the digital divide a top civil rights priority.

A Strong Record on Closing the Digital Divide. President Clinton and Vice President Gore have worked hard to close the digital divide, including:

  • Working to connect every classroom and library to the Internet by the year 2000;
  • Providing discounted Internet access to libraries and classrooms through the e-rate program;
  • Expanding the network of Community Technology Centers to provide access to those who can't afford it;
  • Improving access to technology for people with disabilities; and
  • Encouraging the development of information technology applications for low-income Americans.

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