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PCs for Ford workers – Automaker targets digital gap

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As President Clinton focuses attention on computer access for the poor and minorities, Ford Motor Co. says it will provide every one of its employees with home computers, color printers and unlimited access to the Internet for as little as $5 a month.

The company’s announcement made it the first major firm to offer such an ambitious program, aimed at making it possible for every employee, from the loading dock to the boardroom, to participate in the Internet.

In return, Ford hopes its workers will become more computer savvy. Computers will start going out to employees in April.

Company sources estimate the program will cost Ford about $300 million over three years, the Washington Post reports, but company officials declined to confirm that.

Ford says it may offset some of its costs by selling advertisements to run on the Internet service being offered employees.

Both Ford and union officials told the Post no strings are attached to the computer deal. They said there will be no monitoring of how employees use their computers or the Internet.

In the U.S., Ford workers will pay $5 a month for the package.

After three years and a total payment of $180 per employee, the computer systems will be the worker’s property. Ford officials said it isn’t clear yet if employees will have to continue to pay for Internet access.

Elsewhere in the world, the monthly fee will be adjusted for household incomes and living standards.

The announcement came in the wake of President Clinton’s release of details on his request for more than $2 billion in the next budget to help close the “digital divide” between people with access to technology and those without access.

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