The Digital Divide Network

IT professionals team up to create Internet-based clearinghouse

Internet seminars to tech-starved communities.

Other areas in the digital clearinghouse include “Grants and Funding,” a roster of grants, funding opportunities and nonmonetary resources available to communities seeking technological assistance. The list is periodically updated. “In the News” is an archive of news articles and a listing of upcoming digital divide-related events and conferences. The section also features in-depth original reporting of breaking issues related to the digital divide.

Among those companies already making headlines is Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey-based DME Interactive Holdings Inc., which, on June 22, 1999, became one of the first publicly traded African American-owned Internet companies. DME has partnered with America Online to launch a co-branded online service for the urban market called “Places of Color.” The online service will provide unlimited Internet access, e-mail, instant messaging and customized content to minority communities for $19.95 per month (see “A Dash of AOL,” Newspoints, this issue).

CEO Darien Dash, who founded DME five years ago (see “Talking Tech and the Stock Market,” Techwatch, January 2000), has adopted a personal and professional mission to close the digital divide by expanding hardware and software infrastructure within minority communities. The 28-year-old entrepreneur was among the group of highly sought technology gurus present at the White House’s digital divide summit.

The “In the Field” page has feature stories detailing the efforts of community organizations and individuals working to bridge the divide. For example, CitySkills.org works with community-based groups to provide job training to adults interested in Internet-related careers. In addition to developing instructional materials and technical assistance tools, CitySkills.org solicits employers to hire from the newly trained talent. The nonprofit emerged out of CitySoft Inc., a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Web development company that hires employees predominately from urban neighborhoods.

The Digital Divide clearinghouse also features a “Research & Data” section, which lists reports from academic institutions, industry groups, policy think tanks and leading Internet gurus. This section also provides links to the latest studies, including “Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide,” the U.S. Department of Commerce report that generated heavy news coverage when it was released in July 1999 (see “Across the Great Divide,” Newspoints, March 2000). The Department of Commerce maintains its own digital divide Website (www.digitaldivide.gov).

Among those corporate partners contributing workers as well as funds to the Digital Divide Network are AOL, Bell Atlantic, BellSouth, the Ford Foundation, Gateway, Intel, iVillage and SBC Communications. While some of the partners are direct industry competitors, all of them agreed to “put down their swords” to band together to build the Digital Divide Network. “It just made sense to have all of us work together [cohesively] as much as possible,” says Carvin.

Aside from educating people, Fulton points out that the Digital Divide Network’s Website helps inspire new efforts by highlighting success stories. “It will be a place where companies can share stories about what they’re doing,” he explains. He describes the Website as “a backbone that really helps people help themselves.”

Closing the technology gap has become a top priority for the Clinton administration and other

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