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New Mexico State professor takes part in meeting about the digital divide

Kenneth L. Hacker, a New Mexico State University communication studies professor and co-editor of the book "Digital Democracy," is a consulting advisor for a town hall meeting addressing the "digital divide" to be held in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, May 22.

said the digital divide is a set of gaps among ethnic and demographic groups in terms of their Internet usage. The meeting, titled "Building a Bridge to the Information Superhighway: Solutions for Closing the Digital Divide," is co-sponsored by UNITY: Journalists of Color Inc., the National Press Club and Microsoft Corp. UNITY is an organization that promotes ethnic minorities in journalism.

The town hall will consist of CBS Evening News correspondent, Joie Chen, as the moderator and a group of panelists who will discuss the problem and answer questions from a studio audience. The group of five panelists includes Hector V. Barreto, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Bruce Brooks, director of community affairs at Microsoft Corp. The meeting is being recorded for an upcoming special on the PBS program "VillageAmerica."

Hacker has provided an article titled "Digital Divide Facts and Fictions" to help frame the discussion in a thoughtful and constructive manner.

"What I'm doing is providing a theoretical framework for questions," he said. He said a recent U.S. Department of Commerce report stating the digital divide is lessening is correct, but that gaps still remain. He also said most studies on the digital divide have focused on the access, rather than the usage, of the Internet.

Hacker co-edited the book "Digital Democracy," which was published in 2001, with Jan Van Dijk. He has had three articles published about the digital divide, including one in Information Society, and has participated in a panel addressing the digital divide at the University of Texas at Austin.

The town hall is the second installment of a four-part series for a PBS special called "VillageAmerica and the Digital Divide." It will include reports from around the country on projects that are working to close the digital divide. The time and date of the broadcast have yet to be determined.

Sarah Wheeler
May 21, 2002