Clinton proposes incentives to close digital divide

President Clinton proposed a $2 billion package Wednesday to help low-income families gain access to technology by giving the private sector tax breaks for donating used computers.

"Everybody ought to have access to a computer. Everybody ought to have access to the Internet," Clinton said in a speech to high school students in Washington, D.C. "Everybody ought to know how to use it, and then we ought to make it possible for people to make the maximum use of it."

Clinton's proposal called for $2 billion in tax incentives over 10 years, as well as $380 million in federal grants for private-sector initiatives. Clinton's plan is part of his 2001 fiscal budget proposal that will be released on Feb. 7. Congress must approve it.

Clinton also said he would lead a group of high-tech chief executive officers on a trip in April to impoverished areas as part of his "New Markets" initiative to direct investments to needy communities. The trip also will highlight communities using information technology to enhance education and create jobs.

"It will be tragic if this instrument, that has done more to break down barriers between people than anything in all of human history, built a new wall because not everybody had access to it. That's what this whole deal's about," the president said.

In his speech, Clinton said that when he took office there were 50 sites on the World Wide Web. Today, there are 50 million. More than 50 percent of America's schools and more than 80 percent of its classrooms are wired for the Internet, according to the Clinton administration. The goal is to have all schools connected by year's end.

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