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Tech Cos. Give to Black Colleges

March 11, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ Microsoft Corp., IBM and AT&T have promised $101 million in cash and equipment to 39 black schools, kicking off a United Negro College Fund drive to close the so-called ``digital divide″ that separates minorities from the high-tech economy.

The UNCF announced the $130 million fund raising effort on Friday and said it hopes to find another $29 million in contributions.

``It is critically important that those who are coming out of these institutions have the technological skills that the society is going to demand in the 21st century,″ said UNCF president William Gray III.

Microsoft plans to give $50 million in software and training material. IBM will offer schools, professors and students discounts of up to 50 percent on personal computers and networking hardware _ a gift valued at $50 million, the UNCF said. AT&T is contributing $1 million to the campaign.

According to Gray, many historically black colleges and universities had fallen victim to the ``digital divide,″ lagging behind other institutions in their ability to help students and teachers get Internet access.

Only about 15 percent of students at black schools own a computer, compared with 55 percent of all college students, he said. And fewer than half of faculty members at the UNCF’s member schools have computers, compared with 70 percent nationally.

Black schools also have fewer network servers and about 75 percent of the hardware is obsolete or needs to be replaced, Gray said.

President Clinton issued a statement lauding the partnership.

``We cannot allow unequal access to deepen divisions along the lines of race, income, education level and geography,″ he said. ``I believe we can use technology to help make the American dream a reality for more citizens.″

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On the Net: United Negro College Fund site: http://www.uncf.org

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