Bill Would Bring Computers to Thousands of Youths

Every Boys and Girls Club 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 last month by Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. (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 would foot 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 also are part of PowerUp, were chosen to

receive 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 formally introduced the bill with AOL chief executive officer

Stephen Case, Case Foundation president Jean Case and deputy attorney general

Eric Holder at the Eastern Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington in Washington,

D.C.

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