President Clinton on Wednesday sought to build support for his $2.3-billion initiative to bridge what he calls the digital divide. He convened computer executives, including Stephen M. Case of America Online, at an inner-city high school struggling to wire all its computers to the World Wide Web.
Clinton said the budget proposal he would unveil next week, which requires congressional approval, will include tax incentives of $2-billion over 10 years as well as expanded grants to encourage the private sector to donate computers, sponsor technology centers in poor neighborhoods and train those not yet connected to the Internet.
Government studies have shown significant differences in Internet access of rich and poor. Households with incomes above $75,000 in urban areas are 20 times more likely to have access to the Web than the poorest households. Racial disparities also exist, with black and Hispanic families 40 percent as likely as whites to have Internet access.
"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," Clinton said.
With the declared goal of making Internet access as common as telephone usage, Clinton would set aside $150-million to help train new teachers to better use technology.
The centerpiece of the president's digital divide proposal, which he described Jan. 27 in the State of the Union address as "a national crusade" to create "opportunity for all," would be $2-billion in tax incentives over the next decade to encourage companies to donate computers, sponsor schools, libraries and community centers and support technology training for workers.