- April 18, 2000 Clinton Hopes to Raise Indian Internet Use By MARC LACEY HIPROCK, N.M., April 17 -- Moved by the story of a young American Indian girl who won aMessage 1 of 2 , Apr 18, 2000View Source
From today's NY Times
April 18, 2000
Clinton Hopes to Raise Indian Internet Use
By MARC LACEY
HIPROCK, N.M., April 17 -- Moved by the story of a young American Indian girl who won a free computer but lacked a telephone to hook it up to the Internet, President Clinton today announced a program to offer low-cost phone service on the nation's Indian reservations as a first step toward integrating American Indians into the information age.
Mr. Clinton introduced the $17 million initiative, to be financed by an assessment on long-distance companies, at the start of a two-day tour intended to focus attention on the people and places left behind by the computer revolution.
The president began the day in East Palo Alto, Calif., where poverty and crime thrive in the shadow of the bustling Silicon Valley. The sleek office parks housing the Bay Area's hundreds of dot-com ventures stop abruptly at the town line. Internet use among East Palo Alto's schoolchildren is dismally low.
"We can use new technology to extend opportunity to more people than ever before," Mr. Clinton said at a visit to Plugged In, a community group that trains the poor about Web pages and search engines. He urged young people to immerse themselves in technology, citing the thousands of computer-related jobs listed in the Sunday paper.
Later, Mr. Clinton flew to the Navajo reservation here, where he was introduced by Myra Jodie, a 13-year-old girl who won an iMac computer in a Web company's contest that she entered using a computer at her school. But she lacked the phone service in her two-bedroom mobile home in Ganado, Ariz., needed to connect the machine to the World Wide Web.
"It would be really nice to get Internet," said Miss Jodie, who planned to use it to research her favorite bands as well as colleges she would like to attend some day. "To me, the Internet is a tool that can open up the whole world."
On Indian reservations, the so-called digital divide becomes a chasm. Only about 22 percent of Navajos here have phone service, according to White House officials, and many lack electricity, let alone computers or Internet access.
Mr. Clinton's program would offer $1-a-month phone service to up to 300,000 Indians nationwide. To finance the program, White House officials said, the federal surcharge on long distance carriers would be raised four-tenths of 1 percent; if the companies passed along the entire cost, they said, it would amount to about 7 cents a year a consumer.
The initiative, which builds on an existing $500 million program for phone service for the poor, would not require congressional approval, administration officials said.
Government studies show significant gaps in computer literacy exist between the rich and poor. According to a recent Commerce Department report, 80 percent of households with incomes of $75,000 or more have computers, compared with 16 percent of households with incomes less than $15,000.
There are racial divisions as well, the report found, with about 47 percent of white households using computers compared with 23 percent of African American households and 26 percent of Hispanic households.
Mr. Clinton's visit prompted several corporations to make multimillion-dollar financial pledges. Gateway Inc. will provide technology literacy training to 75,000 teachers. America Online pledged 100,000 free accounts to community centers for the poor. The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Black Entertainment Television cable network plan public service announcements to encourage computer use among the young.