Discovering the Divide: Technology and Poverty in the New Economy
This article uses archival materials from the Clinton administration to explore how the “digital divide” frame was initially built. By connecting features of this frame for stratified Internet access with concurrent poverty policy discourses, I reveal the digital divide frame as a crucial piece of the emergent neoliberal consensus, positioning economic transition as a natural disaster only the digitally skilled will survive. The Clinton administration framed the digital divide as a national economic crisis and operationalized it as a deficit of human capital and the tools to bring it to market. The deficit was to be resolved through further competition in telecommunications markets. The result was a hopeful understanding of “access” as the opportunity to compete in the New Economy.