Tucson seeks innovative tech proposals

Tucson, Ariz., is asking its agencies and other community organizations to come up with innovative ways to make small investments in telecommunications or Internet technology that have lasting benefits for the city.

Tucson's Telecommunications Policy and Advisory Committee (Telepac) plans to award $30,000 in grants this year, with each grant possibly worth up to $10,000.

The committee is looking for proposals that parlay grant money into long-term projects, not one-shot deals. Such proposals might include multiple sources of public funding, matching funds from the private sector or even advertiser-based funding.

"We would like to see a [proposed] project doesn't last just 12 months but continues on" once the grant money is gone, said telecommunications administrator Steven Postil.

For example, one group may propose a World Wide Web site to provide information to people with disabilities. None of the various agencies serving this group has the money to set up such a service on its own. But each agency might contribute $500 to the project, ask for matching funds from the committee and sell advertising on the site to businesses in town, Postil said.

Telepac would like to see projects that target city youth, minorities, low-income people or other groups who generally do not have access to technology. For example, one potential applicant wants to establish a training center in its neighborhood, Postil said. The committee is encouraging proposals that promote collaboration in neighborhoods, particularly between the public and private sectors.

Tucson is funding the grants program through a public-access fund created by charging its local telecom providers a one-half percent fee on gross revenues from the city. Since 1995, this fee has generated more than $90,000.

The program is restricted to organizations within Tucson's city limits. For more information, go to www.ci.tucson.az.us/it-grants.html.

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