Public/Private Initiatives Announced at Digital Divide Summit

Public and privatesector groups announced initiatives to bridge the digital divide at a summit Thursday in Washington, D.C., hosted by U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary William Daley.

The digital divide is the gap between those who have access to computers and the Internet and those who do not for socioeconomic and geographic reasons.

The digital divide "is not a problem that government can solve alone, nor industry or the civil rights groups or the nonprofits can solve alone," Daley said. "But if we have more public/private partnerships, there's no question that we can do better and close the gap."

AT& T pledged grants totaling $1 million to be used by the Education Development Center, a nonprofit education, research and development association, to help educate and train teachers, community members and young people nationwide. Underprivileged communities in Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Los Angeles; the Mississippi Delta; New York City; Oakland, Calif.; Pittsburgh; the Rio Grande Valley; and Washington, D.C., will benefit.

BellSouth Corp. announced a wireless Internet trial to begin early next year in Houma, La. Participants will get a modem and a wireless receiver to download information and will use traditional dial-up connections to link to the company's Internet access service. The information will be sent at speeds up to 1.5 megabits/sec -- about 50 to 100 times faster than a standard line.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Leadership Conference Education Fund and the America Online Foundation will contribute the Digital Opportunity Program. It will offer tools and assistance to help the nation's civil rights organizations incorporate technology for their educational, advocacy and public policy initiatives.

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