Clinton gets mixed reviews at Comdex
- By IDG News Service, Lee Copeland
- Apr 25, 2000
CHICAGO — Last year, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates delivered the keynote
address at Comdex/Spring 1999 to a standing-room-only audience. Last week,
President Clinton took the podium at the trade show here and spoke to a
Clinton made Comdex/Spring 2000 the final stop on his Digital Divide New
Markets tour, urging high-tech companies to help bridge the gap between
affluent communities with access to computers and the Internet and those
without such access.
"I came here today to ask you to set another trend — to devote more time
and technology, more ideas and energy, to closing the digital divide," Clinton
said. He said more than 400 organizations had signed up to participate in
the initiative. But among show attendees, his call to action received mixed
"I don't think the government has any business in this," said Randy Gibson,
a systems administration supervisor at software maker Basis International
Ltd. in Albuquerque, N.M.
"The government does not need to step in and provide free Internet connection
to everybody when you can pretty much get it for free if you know what you
are doing," Gibson said. "The problem is not the rich keeping technology
away from the poor, and the government should not come in and tax people
for a program that probably won't help anyone anyway."
"There are some challenges ahead, but [Clinton] has clearly defined an agenda,
and it will be up to us to execute it," countered Keith Hartley, director
of marketing at SteelEye Technology Inc. in Mountain View, Calif. "The private
sector does owe back to the economy and the government to help the government
spur new markets. It's not enough to capitalize on the existing markets
as the economy changes. We need to work with the public sector."
The president asked information technology companies and professionals to
help give schools access to computers and the World Wide Web, expand internships
and deepen talent pools to include more ethnic and gender diversity.
According to the Commerce Department, 30 percent of white Americans and
36 percent of Asian Americans have Internet access at home, while only 11
percent of African Americans and 13 percent of Hispanic Americans have that