New bill would bring thousands of computers to youths

Every Boys and Girls Clubs of America across the country would get a bank of computers, Internet access and instructors to show kids how to use the technology under a bill proposed Thursday by Sen. Joesph Biden (D-Del).

The proposal, a public/private collaboration with the corporate backing of industries including America Online, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Gateway Inc., would give the national youth organization $20 million per year during six years. The companies would donate computer hardware and software and Internet access while the government foots the bill to wire the clubs and pay computer teachers.

Under the plan, each of the nation's 2,300 Boys and Girls Clubs would get an average of 10 computers, said Mark Rooney, Biden's deputy press secretary.

"We want to keep at it until every Boys and Girls Club has [about] 20," Rooney said.

Rooney said Biden's plan, called Kids 2000, already has bipartisan support in that it's being co-sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

The industry end of the partnership is working through PowerUp, a coalition of businesses and nonprofit groups formed last year to close the "digital divide," the gap between those who have access to technology and those less fortunate who do not.

The Boys and Girls Clubs, which is also part of PowerUp, was chosen to get the computers because the clubs serve exactly the part of the population likely to be missing the technology revolution — 3 million young people in underserved communities.

Biden was to announce plans to introduce the bill at a press conference

Thursday with AOL chief executive officer Stephen

Case, CaseFoundation president Jean Case and Deputy Attorney General Eric

Holder.

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