NTIA Press Releases
For Immediate Release
Thursday, October 12, 2000
Contact: Morrie Goodman
(202) 482-4883
Contact: Ranjit de Silva
(202) 482-7002
Art Brodsky
(202) 482-0019


WASHINGTON- A majority of the nation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have networks that provide connectivity to the Internet and the World Wide Web, but most students do not have ready access to the campus networks, according to a report Commerce Secretary Norman Y. Mineta released today.

Secretary Mineta released the report at a press conference attended by Reps. Edolphus Towns (Democrat, New York) and Major Owens (Democrat, New York).

The study was conducted by the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education under a contract provided by the Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

"The study serves as an important blueprint for support from the private sector and non-profit organizations for digital inclusion of a community of over 350,000 students and future leaders attending these institutions of higher education," Mineta said.

"It is clear from the report that a significant number of our nation's historically black educational institutions stand poised to make a digital leap into the 21st century," Secretary Mineta said. "But they cannot make that leap unless they continually upgrade the networks and connectivity so all students can have access to the technology that will prepare them for the new digital economy," Mineta added.

"This study provides an important insight into the challenges faced by our Historically Black Colleges and Universities in keeping pace with other institutions of higher learning in providing students with access to information technologies vital to their advancement and success," Gregory L. Rohde, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA administrator, said.

The study, Historically Black Colleges and Universities: An Assessment of Networking and Connectivity, assessed the computing resources, networking and connectivity of 80 of the 118 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States. (Study is available in .pdf format, size=4.2MB) It represents the first comprehensive assessment of the technology needs of these post secondary institutions that were founded prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act with the primary objective of educating African Americans.

On the lack of student accessibility to computer networks and resources, the study said computer networks in a majority of the colleges are concentrated in administrative buildings rather than in classrooms and student dormitories. In addition, less than 25 percent of the students bring their own computers to school, compared to nearly 50 percent of non-HBCU students who own computers. Access to the campus networks and computer ownership among students are key to insuring networking and connectivity, the study said.

"Individual student 'on demand' access to campus networks is seriously deficient due to either the lack of student ownership of computers, lack of access from campus dormitories or concentration of resources in selected locations," the study said.

"Among the 80 HBCUs, the Technology Assessment Study found their overall status on the Information Superhighway as more positive than originally assumed," the study said. But it said an upgrading and improvement of HCBU computer networks was critical if the institutions are to be competitive with other institutions in providing research and promoting other educational endeavors.

While noting that the present degree of networking and connectivity at HBCUs was reassuring, the team that conducted the study raised concerns about a general lack of strategies to upgrade and improve network systems.

"During this era of continuous innovation and change, continual upgrading of networking and connectivity systems is critical if HBCUs are to continue to cross the digital divide and not fall victim to it," it said. "Failure to do so may result in what is a manageable digital divide today evolving into an unmanageable digital gulf tomorrow," the study declared.


Note: The report can be accessed through the digital divide web site: www.digitaldivide.gov