AOL Attacks Digital Divide
- By Natasha Haubold
- Apr 03, 2000
As the Internet continues to grow and become an integral part of American
society, American Online Inc. has launched several programs to increase
accessibility in rural and low-income areas.
During a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee meeting
March 2, AOL Chairman Steve Case announced that his company is working with
government agencies to eliminate the digital divide the widening gap
between those who have access to the Internet and those who do not. AOL
is in the process of launching PowerUp, a private-public partnership to
build community technology centers. The centers will enable young people
to learn the information technology skills they need to successfully compete
in the business market.
The centers, located in schools and community centers nationwide, will
also provide guidance on how to use technology to find information on things
such as mentoring programs, career opportunities, community services, after-school
activities and academic help.
Rural areas tend to be hard-hit by the digital divide, so AOL is working
with the National Center for Small Communities to close the gap. Through
the AOL Rural Telecommunications Awards, communities using IT to revitalize
towns with less than 10,000 residents may be eligible for a $10,000 grant.
Last year, four communities received awards. This year, five communities
will receive $10,000 grants and 10 towns will receive $2,000. Winners will
be announced in October. Last year's winners included:
* Sylvester, Ga., population less than 8,000, for its Free Net system
that is accessed by government, educational institutions, community businesses
and private citizens. Volunteers maintain the free, countywide network.
* Maddock, N.D., population less than 1,000, for its development of
the Rural Business and Technology Center that provides a shared telecommunications
* Questa, N.M., population less than 3,000, for its Wireless Demonstration
Project that provided wireless telecommunication services to rural mountain
* McDermitt, Nev., population less than 1,000, for its Humboldt Internet
Provider project. The project was launched and maintained by McDermitt High
AOL is also working with the National School Board Association to provide
Internet access to every school district and to award grants to K-12 teachers
who use the Internet to accentuate lesson plans.
In November, the National School Board Foundation teamed up with AOL
to launch an online network in school districts nationwide. The two-year
pilot will allow parents and school board members to work on educational
issues via 24-hour online discussions. AOL will provide training to school
board members on how to best use those discussions, as well as tech training.
More information on AOL digital divide projects is available at www.aolfoundation.org.