NAMIC Project Aims at Digital Divide


The National Association of Minorities in Communications
will spearhead a partnership to help address the "digital divide," officials
said last week.

Digital Bridge Alliance will try to get communications,
technology and Internet companies to communicate the importance of joining the digital
revolution to underserved communities and people of color, Home Box Office regional vice
president Nancy Hom said.

The alliance will try to create awareness and push the
value of technology through public-service announcements and by placing computers in
community centers in at least 20 major cities.

The alliance will also create a Web page with a hyperlink
to the NAMIC Web site.

Thus far, ZDTV, MTV: Music Television, Comedy Central,
Lifetime Television, Excite@Home Corp., the National Cable Television Association and the
National Association of Minority Media Executives have signed on as co-partners in the

The project is specifically targeted toward
African-American, Hispanic and some Asian-American/Pan-Pacific households -- groups that
statistically have the lowest penetration of computers and Internet access.

"It's become increasingly clear that in order to
bridge the digital divide, three equally important issues need to be addressed: making
computer technology and connections widely available; providing training and education;
and motivating people to use these high-tech tools," NCTA president Robert Sachs said
in a prepared statement.

"NAMIC's timely proposal directly addresses these
issues, and it will make a valuable contribution to solving a societal problem," he

"We are extremely excited about the support this
alliance has received to date," @Home Benelux CEO Jamie Howard said. @Home Benelux
is a provider of high-speed Internet access in Europe. "We cannot
stress enough how the world is undergoing a paradigm shift, and technology is at the
epicenter of that change."

Hom said even wealthier African Americans haven't
taken advantage of the information opportunities the Internet provides. Only 44 percent of
African-American households with annual incomes between $35,000 and $75,000 have Internet
access, according to Hom.

"Even the middle class -- the people who can afford it
-- aren't getting it," she said. "The media often portrays the Internet as
for computer geeks, cyber chats and games, and people don't understand the relevancy
of the information process."

The alliance will debut a PSA in May targeting minorities,
explaining the advantages of the Internet and the need for computer literacy, which it
hopes cable operators will air.

Also, the alliance will provide free multilingual
literature on how to get home computers and online access in a cost-efficient manner, as
well as general information regarding computer-training resources, parental controls and
other valuable resources.

Later in the year, the alliance hopes to begin to place a
number of computers in community centers in at least 20 urban neighborhoods.
"We're talking to equipment vendors now," Hom said. "It's a
collaborative effort with cable operators and technology companies coming together under
one umbrella to serve the communities."

"The telecommunications industry is perfectly poised
to take a leadership role on this issue," NAMIC president Joe Lawson said.
"Technological parity will have just as great an impact in the new century as civil
rights did in the last. The opportunity to close the digital divide using our own medium
cannot be overlooked."