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Households with incomes of $75,000 or greater are more than 20 times as likely to have access to the Internet than those at the lowest income levels, and more than nine times as likely to have a computer at home, according to a recent study by the Department of Commerce.
That statistic alone makes the recent collaboration between a historic civil rights organization and one of the largest companies in the world welcome news. AT&T recently donated $300,000 to the NAACP, partnering to create technology centers in 20 cities across the country. Aimed at providing basic computer training and Internet access to families with school-age children, the first six technology centers were scheduled to begin training sessions in early September at local NAACP branches in Baltimore, Dallas, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and Seattle.
"The centers will be open after the school doors close so parents and children can learn computer usage together," says NAACP President Kweisi Mfume. "The technological segregation known as the digital divide must be narrowed."
That the digital divide exists was recently demonstrated in a Commerce Department survey, Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide. The survey indicates that although the number of Americans who own computers and use the Internet has increased dramatically since 1994, there remains a large disparity between the number of African American and Hispanic households owning a computer and having access to the Internet compared to white households. The report found that almost 47% of white households own computers compared with only 25.5% of Hispanic and 23% of African American households.
"America’s digital divide is fast becoming a ‘racial ravine,’" says Larry Irving, assistant secretary of Commerce for Telecommunications. "It is now one of America’s leading economic and civil rights issues and we have to take concrete steps to redress the gap between the information haves and have nots."