For Immediate Release
Friday, October 29, 1999

Contact: Ranjit de Silva
(202) 482-7002


Two-day session sets stage for December Summit to explore methods of closing the nation's growing digital divide

WASHINGTON-More than 600 people, including government and industry leaders, will convene at a Commerce Department-sponsored conference in Washington Nov. 1-2 to discuss how information technology is transforming people's lives and showcase some strategies for bridging the nation's growing digital divide.

Commerce Secretary William M. Daley said the conference provided a stepping stone to the Commerce Department's Digital Divide Summit planned for next month. The Summit will bring together government leaders and corporate executives from across the country to discuss how the public and private sectors could work together to provide all Americans access to information technology, a key element in their advancement and economic success.

"Today, about 60 percent of American households lack access to computers and roughly three-quarters of households lack Internet access," Daley said in prepared welcoming remarks."The gap between information 'haves' and 'have nots,' if it continues, threatens to impair the well being of our communities, the development of a skilled workforce and the economic health of our nation. Therefore, we must be sure that the benefits of the Information Age are available to all Americans," Daley said.

"We will be following the proceedings of this Networks for People conference closely and will be building on the outcomes as we prepare for the December 9th (Digital Divide) summit," Daley said.

"The tremendous interest in this conference is another indicator of the eagerness of communities to participate in the information age," said Bernadette McGuire-Rivera, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Communications and Information.

"We are also very pleased with the international and corporate participation this year," she said.

The 1999 Annual "Networks for People '99 Conference", sponsored by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Telecommunications and Information Assistance Program (TIIAP), provides a forum for government officials, industry leaders and practitioners to discuss how people are using the information technology to change the way they live, do business and get educated. TIIAP is a highly-competitive grant program that promotes the widespread availability and use of advanced telecommunications in the public and nonprofit sectors.

This year's program features a session on bridging the digital divide and will include a presentation by David Bolt, who will preview his upcoming PBS series "The Digital Divide."

It will also introduce a new philanthropic initiative, Helping.Org, a collaborative effort of the Benton Foundation, the AOL Foundation and other non- profit partners. A demonstration of the site will showcase resources and tools available through Helping.Org.

Other keynote addresses: Gary Chapman, director of the University of Texas' 21st Century Project and a featured columnist for the Los Angeles Times, will discuss "Where is Information Technology Taking Us?"; Dr. Carol Ann Bonds will discuss her successful and nationally known TIIAP project "Kids As Agents of Change".