Education, industry team up vs. digital divide

The Education Department on Monday joined partners from numerous nonprofit organizations and businesses, including America Online, in launching a new multimillion-dollar initiative to provide less fortunate children access to information technology, and guidance on how to use it, in an effort to bridge the 'digital divide.'

The new PowerUP initiative will be based in schools and community centers across the country, specifically the Education Department's Computer Technology Centers and 21st Century Community Learning Centers, to help supplement the educational goals of children during and after school hours. Pilot sites for PowerUP have been setup in San Jose, Calif.; Seattle; Alexandria, Va.; and Washington, DC.

AOL chairman Steve Case, who also chairs PowerUP, said the Internet is quickly transforming society and that it is important the benefits be widespread. "We must take steps now so that in the Internet Century, no children are left behind," Case said.

"[PowerUP's] goal is not only to provide young people with access to computers and the Internet, but also to leverage technology's power and the potential of the online medium to help young people develop character and competence."

Major grants from the Waitt Family Foundation and AOL Foundation will enable PowerUP to provide 50,000 computers and 100,000 free AOL accounts for Internet access. The new initiative also will provide $5 million in direct grants to community and school-based centers that wish to participate in the program.

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