U.S. President Urges Action on Digital Divide

CHICAGO (04/18/2000) - U.S. President Bill Clinton today challenged U.S. high-technology companies, from large to small, to get involved in programs aimed at closing the gap between the technology have and have-nots -- the digital divide.

In the first U.S. presidential address ever to a high-technology trade show, Clinton said it was crucial that IT companies spread new technologies to underprivileged people in order to continue the current U.S. economic expansion.

"I am asking you to do this because you can. I'm asking you to do this because it's right. And I am asking you to do this because America needs to have a continually growing economy," Clinton said in his keynote address here today.

The U.S. president said he wanted to address Comdex attendees because they represent a "critical mass" of the IT community.

Specifically, Clinton asked IT companies to support his national call to action issued at a White House briefing on April 4 which challenged corporations and organizations to take concrete steps to connect every U.S. classroom to the Internet and make home access to the Net universal. [See "U.S. President Marshalls Action on Digital Divide," April 4.]"If you are not part of this, I hope you will become part of this," Clinton said. "I want you all to ask if there's anything you are not doing that you could do." The president said that included things as basic as donating computers to schools and helping to train teachers to make certain they are as comfortable in front of a computer as they are in front of in front of a chalkboard.

Clinton made two other key points in his speech. The first was in the form of a request to high-tech companies to expand their internship programs to attract women and minorities. The second item was for IT companies to recognize that there is a limit to what the federal government can do.

The U.S. president's appearance at Comdex was a stop on part of a tour that Clinton is taking to call attention to areas of the country and pockets of the economy that have not been touched by the current economic expansion.

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