NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Digital Divide Is Closing Rapidly

August 7, 2000

Since 1995 the U.S. Commerce Department has released three reports claiming that certain segments of society have access to advanced technology, while others do not. This "digital divide" is said to be based on ethnicity, income and locale. President Clinton has proposed a $2 billion initiative to close this alleged gap. Yet the digital divide that does exist is small and is being rapidly closed, thanks to private markets and charities.

There is evidence that there is no racial divide. According to Forrester Research of Cambridge Massachusetts:

  • Sixty-four percent of Asian American households and 36 percent of Hispanic American households use the Internet, compared to 34 percent of white households.
  • Twenty-three percent of black households are wired and are increasing spending on computers at a rate 14 times faster than white families.
  • Latinos, blacks and Asians are now signing up for the Internet faster than whites.

Most researchers attribute the differences in computer ownership and Internet access to differences in income and education, not race.

However, according to Jupiter Communications, nearly 50 percent of Americans earning less than $15,000 a year will be online by 2005, just 10 years after the Internet became readily available. As computing power continues to increase and prices drop, computers may become cheaper than television sets, which 98.7 percent of American households own.

Furthermore, several companies, realizing the potential of a computer-empowered workforce, have begun giving computers to employees. Companies have been equally generous with charities, donating millions of dollars worth of equipment and money.

Source: Blake Bailey (NCPA intern), "The Private Sector Is Closing the Digital Divide," Brief Analysis No. 331, August 7, 2000, National Center for Policy Analysis.

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