National Journalists and Technology Experts Examine the Digital Divide

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2002 — During a town hall meeting last Wednesday on what is being done to bridge the
“digital divide,”
business and community leaders agreed there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done to ensure technology access for all Americans. The town hall meeting,
“Building a Bridge to the Information Superhighway: Solutions for Closing the Digital Divide,”
was hosted by UNITY: Journalists of Color and sponsored by Microsoft Corp.

“Communities of color often have been left behind in having equal access to resources, and technology has proven to be no different,”
said Jackie Greene, president of UNITY: Journalists of Color and director of Technology Planning and Fulfillment at USA Today.
“Tonights town hall discussion proved to be a valuable resource in identifying ways that the public, private and nonprofit sectors can work together to bridge the digital divide.”

Moderator Joie Chen of CBS Evening News began the discussion by asking panelists to help define the term
“digital divide.”
The near consensus among panelists was that the definition included a significant gap in access to technology for communities of color at home and at work and in school systems where children of color are the majority. Communities of color were broadly defined as African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans.

The evening included participation from audience members, who shared information about ways they are involved in their communities. Programs discussed included grass-roots organizations such as Computers 4 Students and the local librarian organization Public Library Directors Committee. Members from both groups explained how they are working with the public and private sector to provide technology resources to young people and the elderly and job training services in the community.

Bruce Brooks, director of Community Affairs for Microsoft, emphasized the need for the private sector to work with communities to find productive solutions. He spoke about the relationship that Microsoft has had with public libraries across the country since 1995 and highlighted important programs the company is funding, such as the $100 million commitment to provide meaningful technology access and training for members of the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Microsofts participation as a sponsor of the town hall meeting underscores its commitment to finding ways to bridge the digital divide.
“The main thing that became clear during this discussion was that there is no single solution to the digital divide. It will take a coordinated effort from all sectors to create opportunities in the Digital Age,”
Brooks said.
“As advancements in technology continue and the digital divide changes, it becomes increasingly important for those of us within the technology industry to maintain a dialogue with policymakers, community leaders and the people actually affected by the divide.”

“Discussions like this one are very important,”
said Hector V. Barreto, administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“Not only because of the myriad of issues involved in understanding and addressing ways to bridge the digital divide, but also because of the opportunity to shed light on ways that both the private and the public sectors are working to create solutions.”

The business divide, a relatively new issue in the technology debate, was also addressed. Studies show that minority-owned small businesses use technology at rates far lower than those of nonminority small businesses. Panel members expressed their concern at the infrequent use of e-commerce, one of the fastest growing segments of the economy, by minority-owned small businesses.

Microsoft recently conducted its own study of minority-owned small businesses and found that only 2 percent of African-American small businesses and 6 percent of Hispanic small businesses had an e-commerce strategy, compared with 35 percent of nonminority small businesses. As a result, Microsoft launched the Build Your Business Tour, a nationwide seminar to educate minority small-business owners about the benefits of technology for growth and productivity.

The panel for the evening was composed of the following members:

  • Bruce Brooks , director of Community Affairs, Microsoft

  • Benjamin Sun , founder and president, Community Connect (parent company of, and

  • Larry Irving , president, Irving Information Group, and former assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information

  • Hector V. Barreto , administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration

  • Angela Glover Blackwell , president, PolicyLink, and former vice president, the Rockefeller Foundation

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
) is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software
any time, any place and on any device.

Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft® Web page at on Microsofts corporate information pages. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may since have changed. Journalists and analysts may contact Microsofts Rapid Response Team for additional assistance.

Related Posts