The good news about the “digital divide” that the Department of Commerce (DOC) says exists between ethnic groups who have computers and access to the Internet and those that do not is that the gap is narrowing.
Overall, the DOC found that more than 40% of American households own computers, while 25% of all households have access to the Net. In fact, among those who earn $75,000 and above, in 1998, 78% of blacks had computers in the home vs. 80% of whites, compared with 1997, when 64% of blacks did vs. 76% of whites. Information from Forrester Research Inc., a marketing and research company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, indicates that lower-income African Americans also may soon have access to computers and the information superhighway. It found that declining prices have made computers more affordable, and therefore nearly 10% of nonwired African American households were expected to go online in 1999-a significantly higher percentage than among the rest of the population.
Forrester also found that African American households already online tend to use the Net most frequently to purchase stocks and mutual funds. Additionally, they use it to read newspapers and magazines, view sports sites and look up entertainment information.
However, as we move into the new millennium, there are still strides to be made: many poor Americans, and those living in remote rural areas, have to go to community centers to gain access to the Net. For them, the convenience and power of the Web are still beyond reach.