The Digital Divide

By Brown, Jessica | Civil Rights Journal, Fall 1999 | Go to article overview

The Digital Divide


Brown, Jessica, Civil Rights Journal


If you work for a corporation, and you're looking for a little face-time, a little positive publicity, the sort of thing P.R. people call "corporate goodwill," which is an industry term that refers to engendering a warm fuzzy feeling in people whenever they think about your product, a good thing to do is to hold a press conference and announce that you are donating a handful of computers to a local school. You'll pick an impoverished one, of course. The schools in wealthy neighborhoods already have computers; many have a few in every classroom. And it has to be computers. True, lots of impoverished schools don't have enough textbooks, or enough teachers, or even enough money for pencils, chalk, and toilet paper, but you can't really hold a press conference announcing that you are donating pencils or toilet paper to a low-income school because that makes people uncomfortable. Just thinking about schools that have to rely on corporate largesse to buy toilet paper is enough to make a lot of people change the channel. No, computers are better, mostly because they're still thought of as a luxury item. Unlike textbooks, it's okay that only wealthy schools are guaranteed to have them; and unlike textbooks, when poor children are given access to computers, this is still viewed as an act of generosity, and not the fulfillment of a basic right.

The Digital Divide

In August 1999, the U.S. Department of Commerce released a report that, for a couple of days at least, grabbed headlines. The report, Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide, was conducted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and examined trends in Americans' access to, and usage of, the Internet, computers, and telephones. It found that, while the overall number of American homes, schools and businesses connected to the Internet is rapidly increasing, a large segment of society, namely people of color, the poor, and residents of rural and inner city communities, are seriously lagging behind in access to this and other types of information technology. "The good news," note the study's authors, "is that Americans are more connected than ever before. Access to computers and the Internet has soared for people in all demographic groups and geographic locations. At the end of 1998, over 40 percent of American households owned computers, and one quarter of all households had Internet access." Accompanying this good news, however, was the persistence of what researchers and activists call the "digital divide," or the gap between the ability of privileged members of our society, and that of historically disadvantaged members, to access and use technology.

Not surprisingly, income remains a very strong factor in determining who will have access to electronic resources, and who will not. For instance, while about 80 percent of homes with annual incomes of $75,000 or more had computers in 1998, and about 60 percent were using the Internet, less than 40 percent of homes with annual incomes between $35,000 and $25,000 had home computers and less than 20 percent had Internet access. Of the poorest homes, those making less than $15,000 annually, computer ownership and Internet use fell to 15 percent and less than 10 percent, respectively. The data indicate, however, that income is not the only factor contributing to the digital divide. Whites of any income are still more likely to own computers and have Internet access than their black and Latino peers. For instance, while 33 percent of whites making between $15,000 and $35,000 had computers, only about 19 percent of blacks did. This overall discrepancy is so broad, reports NTIA, that a child in a low-income white family is still three times more likely to have Internet access than a black child in a comparable family, and four times more likely than a Hispanic child.

Unfortunately, the data for schools and libraries isn't any more encouraging. "Traditionally," write Susan Goslee and Chris Conte in Losing Ground Bit by Bit: Low-Income Communities in the Information Age, a report published by the Benton Foundation in June of 1998, "we have looked to schools and libraries to help eliminate disparities in access to information resources. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Digital Divide
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.