AOL Attacks Digital Divide

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 infrastructure.

    * Questa, N.M., population less than 3,000, for its Wireless Demonstration Project that provided wireless telecommunication services to rural mountain areas.

    * McDermitt, Nev., population less than 1,000, for its Humboldt Internet Provider project. The project was launched and maintained by McDermitt High School students.

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.

MORE INFO

Bill Would Bring Computers to Thousands of Youths [civic.com, 3/6/00]

Chicago office bridges the other 'digital divide', civic.com newsfeed, 2/24/00]

10 U.S. cities to share $1 million for efforts to bridge digital divide, civic.com newsfeed, 1/31/00]

BY Natasha Haubold
April 3, 2000

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