How Black America shaped the internet

Race For the Net Review
Albert E. White – Courtesy photo

 

– BOOK REVIEW –

By CHARITY CHUKWU

The Dallas Examiner

 

The internet has been on the forefront of technology over the last four decades, changing almost all aspects of society on a global scale. Especially now during a continuous pandemic, the world has put its trust in the platform to help people stay connected, build businesses, get educated and function at all levels while in the comfort and safety of their homes.

As the contributions of African Americans become uncovered and acknowledged, a book has emerged to give credit to their influence over the internet in its early stages. Little was known behind the company that helped open the world wide web to average Americans and the Black founders behind it.

In his book Race for the Net: When African Americans Controlled the Internet and What Happens Now?, Albert E. White gave an engaging history of how Network Solutions, a minority-owned firm, shaped the internet with a government contract that would prove lucrative in more ways than one.

The climax of the story hit in 1992, after Network Solutions was granted a federal contract to issue web addresses to the general public. Before then the web was mostly used by the U.S. Department of Defense for research purposes. However, after some suspicious but unavoidable terms from the initial contract the company was unable to turn a profit, according to the book.

After years of freely delivering the web addresses to many companies that would soon become the giant corporations and conglomerates of today, the Black-owned company was forced to sale control of the company in 1995 for less that $5 million. Then new owner, Science Application International Corporation, would sale the company for $21 billion five years later in 2000 after being granted permission to charge a fee to issue each web address.

This would be known as the largest sale of any technology company at the time, according to the book.

White contributed to the company as the vice president of corporate communication. He established the marketing strategy to help promote and commercialize the internet. Early on in the book, he showed his prowess in business by detailing an exciting competition between Network Solutions and other high-profile companies vying for a lucrative contract with AT&T. From there the stage was set for him to sell the concept of the internet to an audience that could hardly conceive of it at the time.

When he first joined Network Solutions, White had no idea how successful the business would come to be.

“Even back in 1993, when we first launched the internet globally there was still a lot of skepticism on what the internet was and how you could utilize the internet,” he said.

White’s book went on to address the struggles that the African American community has faced and continues to face when it comes to making strides in the technological sphere. He offered advice on what he feels is essential for Black progress in business and industry. One of his key opinions came down to investing in each other and opening doors for the younger generation to see their ideas through.

“I wanted to make sure that young people today and generations later would realize the role that the African American community played in the launch of the internet,” he said.

In addition, the book ended with White discussing the next internet revolution featuring artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, as well as the enormous impact these technologies will have on our economy today and in the future. He made it clear that with most industries shifting toward tech, it was in the best interest of African Americans to increase their knowledge in the field so as to make gains and not be replaced with robotics.

After 30 years of business and finance experience, White offered this advice for current and future generations in the times of COVID.

“We should not allow our economic situation to prevent us from continuing to force the growth of our community,” he said. “African American businesses have been lost during this period, but we still need to be diligent in identifying business opportunities within our communities as well as getting training in technology.”

Although the book does ramble at times, it is only because White makes sure to give credit to all those involved and tried not to leave out any details. He boasted stories of countless African American entrepreneurs and gave a detailed example of their impact in relation to getting him and Network Solutions to the top. With all the game changers he mentioned, it gives wonder to what countless others were left out in the history of other essential industries.

As for his future plans, White said he intended to keep writing and tailoring his knowledge in business to provide a roadmap for where African Americans should go from here. He said he planned to make his next book a continuation of the last titled, What Happens Now, addressing problems from the pandemic and how it relates to economic development and job creation.

“I’ve always believed that digital business was the way to go and we see that even more now digital business is so important to us going forward,” he concluded. “I still believe that even if you don’t have a job you need to go and see how I get on the internet and become a digital player.”

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