'Digital divide' still separates tech haves, have-nots

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The "digital divide" between U.S. residents with access to new technologies, including the Internet, and those without access continues to widen in some cases and now constitutes "one of America's leading economic and civil rights issues," according to a government report released today.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, issued "Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide," the third report in a series that started in July of 1995 with the release of a survey on access to technology in the U.S.

"Minorities, low-income persons, the less educated and children of single-parent households, particularly when they reside in rural areas or central cities, are among the groups that lack access to information resources," the report said.

The NTIA used December 1998 data from the U.S. Census Bureau obtained through interviews with 48,000 sample U.S. households.

Specific findings include the following:

  • Households with incomes of $75,000 or above are more than 20 times more likely to have Internet access than those at lower income levels. The higher-income homes are nine times more likely to have a computer.

  • White residents are more likely to have Internet access at home than are blacks or Hispanics from anywhere. Black and Hispanic homes are about one-third more likely to have home Internet access compared with homes whose residents are of Asian/Pacific islander descent.
  • Rural residents are behind in Internet access, regardless of income level. Urban low-income residents are more than twice as likely to have Internet access than are rural residents of the same income level.
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