FC: So-called "digital divide" no longer exists, by Sonia Arrison

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Tue Mar 19 2002 - 21:08:12 PST

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    Subject: Time to dump the digital divide rhetoric
    From: "Sonia Arrison" <SArrisonat_private>
    To: <declanat_private>
    Dear Declan,
    I thought your Politech readers might be interested in this piece on the 
    digital divide.
    What digital divide?
    By Sonia Arrison  <mailto:lettersat_private>
    March 13, 2002, 4:00 AM PT
    A new report from the Department of Commerce brings good news to most 
    Americans and serves as a wake-up call for those who believe the digital 
    divide is the civil liberties issue of the 21st century.
    The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have access to 
    technology and those who do not. Back in the heady days of the dot-com boom 
    everything was out of proportion, including political rhetoric. The Rev. 
    Jesse Jackson, for example, called the digital divide "classic apartheid," 
    the NAACP's Kweisi Mfume dubbed it "technological segregation," and 
    President Clinton urged a "national crusade."
    But a new report from the Department of Commerce (DOC), "A Nation online: 
    How Americans are expanding their use of the Internet 
    <http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/dn/index.html>," helps to explain why the 
    digital divide is not a crisis that places citizens in urgent need of more 
    government help.
    More than half the population of the United States is now online, an 
    increase of 26 million people in 13 months, and the number continues to 
    grow. The report also shows that Internet use is continuing to increase for 
    everyone regardless of income, education, age, race, ethnicity or gender. 
    Even groups not historically "early adopters" are growing their online 
    presence. For instance, the DOC report shows that 39.8 percent of blacks 
    and 31.6 percent of Hispanics are online.
    What might be the most remarkable finding of the DOC report is that 
    "between December 1998 and September 2001, Internet use by individuals in 
    the lowest income households (those earning less than $15,000 per year) 
    increased at a 25 percent annual growth rate." In 2001, 25 percent of lower 
    income people were online, and if things continue at this rate, it won't be 
    long before virtually everyone who wants to connect can.
    Further, last week, Jupiter Media Metrix reported 
    that the age of online shoppers is moving up while the income level drops. 
    In other words, those on the Net are starting to look a lot more like the 
    real world population. This is a good time to re-evaluate some of the 
    assumptions that fed the digital divide hysteria.
    Not all individuals want to use computers or get online. Everyone knows 
    someone, rich or poor, who chooses not to have voice mail, call waiting, or 
    even a television. Many of the Internet's so-called "have-nots" are really 
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