digital divide- pc ownership,net access (fwd)

Wed, 19 Aug 1998 10:08:16 -0400

This is about a recent study on computer ownership and connectivity by
race/ethnicity -- Bob McLaughlin

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 3 Aug 1998 09:03:34 EDT
Subject: digital divide- pc ownership,net access

Blacks, Hispanics Still Behind Whites In Level of PC Ownership,
Net Access By ROYCE T. HALL

WASHINGTON -- Even in the midst of Internet mania, about half as many black and
Hispanic households own a personal computer as their white counterparts, and
about a third as many have on-line access -- and the disparity is growing.

A study released Tuesday by the Commerce Department found that 19.3% of
black households and 19.4% of Hispanic households own a PC, compared with
40.8% of white households. In 1994, just as the Internet had given
consumers a new reason to own a PC, 10.3% of black households owned one,
compared with 12.3% of Hispanic homes and 27.1% of whites.

As for the Internet, 7.7% of black homes have on-line access, compared with
8.7% of Hispanics and 21.2% of white homes. Figures for 1994, when the last
study was done, weren't available.

Even black households with relatively high income levels didn't bridge the
gap. Among households with annual income levels above $75,000, whites, at
76.3%, are still more likely to have PCs than blacks, at 64.1%.

The report, commissioned by Vice President Al Gore, also highlighted
profiles of the "least connected" Americans, which included the rural poor;
rural and central-city minorities; female-headed households; and households
headed by people younger than 25.

The department said that although all racial groups now own more computers
than they did in 1994, "blacks and Hispanics now lag even further behind
whites in their levels of PC ownership and on-line access."

Non-Hispanic minorities, which include Asian-Americans, have the highest
number of households with PCs, at 47%, and Internet access, at 25.2%.

Mr. Gore used the study to defend a multibillion-dollar plan to subsidize
Internet hookups for schools and libraries. Phone and other
telecommunications companies fund the subsidies via universal service fees
charged to customers. Lawmakers have criticized the program as boosting
consumer telephone bills.

Analysts were at a loss to explain why the technology gap grew faster
between minority and white households during the past four years. "With the
explosion of all these Internet companies and with computer prices falling,
we not only need to understand why there are groups that are being left
out, but why things are getting increasingly worse," said Donna Hoffman, a
professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. She co-wrote a study
on race and Internet use published in April.

Some suspect that minorities aren't embracing the Information Age because
PC makers and Internet-service providers aren't targeting them in marketing

"It's still a financial decision," said E. David Ellington, chief executive
of NetNoir Inc., an Internet service based in San Francisco geared toward
blacks. "Maybe minorities feel there's nothing there for them yet." He
noted that "blacks have consistently adapted to technology. Three years
into the Internet industry, it's too early to be panicked."

--John Simons contributed to this article.

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