Groups still fall through the Net
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Nov 05, 2000
Internet access is rapidly increasing across ethnic, racial, economic, geographic
and gender groups, but according to a recent Commerce Department study,
the gap is widening between certain minority groups and the national average.
"Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion" is the fourth in
a series of Commerce Department reports measuring the digital divide.
"Each year, being connected becomes more critical to economic and educational
advancement and to community participation," Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta
said. "[The report] shows there's been some progress between the haves
and have-nots, but there's still plenty of work."
Overall, Internet access "soared" to 41.5 percent of American households
in August 2000, compared with 26.2 percent reported December 1998, the
report said. More than half the households also have access to computers,
up from 42.1 percent in December 1998. Individuals logging on increased
by a third over that time, to nearly 45 percent.
African-American and Hispanic households have also seen "impressive
gains" in Internet access, the report said, with both groups twice as likely
to have access than 20 months ago. But the gap between these groups and
the national average widened.
The gap between African-American households and the national average
is 18 percent, three percentage points higher than what existed in December
1998; for Hispanic households, the gap is 17.9 percent, or 4.3 percentage
points higher. Internet access from home is also lower than the national
average for these groups.
The report said differences in income and education "do not fully account
for this facet of the digital divide," but when asked what other differences
existed, Assistant Commerce Secretary Greg Rohde said analysis of the statistics
was not in the scope of the report.
The report also gauged usage by persons with disabilities. It said they
are only half as likely to have access as those without disabilities — 21.6
percent compared with 42.1 percent. And people with impaired vision and
problems with manual dexterity have even lower rates of access than those
with hearing and mobility problems.