How do you close the digital divide?

AL GORE

Gore believes that we must redouble our efforts to close the digital

divide and create digital opportunity. Increasingly, access to IT and the

skills needed to use it effectively are becoming essential to full participation

in America's economic, political and social life. Unfortunately, low income,

rural and minority families are still much less likely to have access to

computers and the Internet. Gore would work to ensure that all Americans

benefit from the Information Age.

He would launch a new crusade to make the Internet as universal as the

telephone in every American household. As president, Gore would encourage

public/private partnerships to bring affordable Internet access to the hardest-to-reach

urban and rural communities. In April, he announced that the administration

had allocated funding to enable America's one-millionth classroom to be

connected to the Internet. Gore knows that technology is fueling the engine

of our new economy and that by connecting all our children to the Internet,

we will put a whole new world of knowledge and information at their fingertips.

Gore fought for the "E-rate" program to provide low-cost Internet access

to the schools that serve our nation's most disadvantaged children. As president,

he would make sure we finish connecting every classroom and library in America

to the Internet, train all teachers to use technology effectively, expand

access to modern computers and multimedia, and encourage the development

of high-quality educational software and online resources.

As president, Gore would work with the private sector to establish a

national network of Community Technology Centers in low-income neighborhoods,

where people can learn how to use computers and the Internet. He would also

work with private and community-based organizations to support the development

of applications that would empower low-income families — such as adult literacy

courseware that would allow low-income workers to compete for higher-wage

jobs.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Closing the digital divide in our nation must begin in our nation's

schools, and it must be paired with the fight to close the achievement gap.

Bush believes that reading is the building block for success, and success

in reading must be the foundation for education reform. That is why he would

commit his administration to the ambitious goal of ensuring that every disadvantaged

child can read by the third grade, with federal investments including the

Reading First Initiative.

Through the Reading First Initiative, we would invest $5 billion over

five years to conquer illiteracy among disadvantaged children. Once reading

is mastered, Bush believes that our nation's children have a tremendous

opportunity with the advancement of our new economy. At this point, it is

critical that we ensure that all students have the tools they need to be

successful in the technology era.

The real divide is in educational achievement, not just digital access.

Focusing on the percentage or number of wired schools misses the point.

Technology is a tool, and the goal must be improved student performance.

To encourage the use of technology as a means to student achievement, Bush

wants to enact a number of reforms, including a package of new initiatives

totaling $400 million over five years.

To provide schools with maximum flexibility in the use of federal education

technology funds to help close the achievement gap, as president, Bush would

establish a $3 billion Enhancing Education through Technology Fund by consolidating

the FCC's Schools and Libraries program with eight of the Education Department's

technology programs. He would also free states and schools from federal

regulations to allow maximum flexibility in using federal funds for such

purposes as teacher training, software purchase and development, and system

integration. And he would continue to give priority to rural schools and

schools serving high percentages of low-income students.

However, Bush would not continue to accept poor results with federal

money. With federal funding and local control would come accountability.

If a program is found to be ineffective, it should be changed so that our

nation's children receive the very best education possible. He would also

promote a clearinghouse for information, which would provide educators with

materials that have proven to be effective teaching resources.

In addition to providing schools with more information about the uses

of technology for improving student performance, Bush would do two more

things:

* Provide $65 million annually to the Education Department's Office

of Education Research and Improvement for universities and other research

institutions to conduct research on which methods of education technology

boost student achievement.

* Provide $15 million annually to establish the Education and Technology

Clearinghouse to make available to schools and states information on effective

education technology programs, best practices and the latest research studies.

When it comes to the global digital gap, too often the federal government's

export policies are arbitrary and irrational — overtaken by the very technology

they attempt to regulate. Yesterday's supercomputer is today's laptop. Yet

current rules don't take this into account. And there has been too little

opportunity for America's high-tech exporters to make their case about what

should be restricted and what should not.

As president, Bush would fix the export control system by developing

a tough-minded, common-sense export control policy that significantly narrows

the scope of restrictions on commercial products while building high walls

around technologies of the highest sensitivity. He recognizes that our national

security and commercial competitiveness — as well as global competition — have been compromised by a broken export control system.

Too often the system penalizes our high-tech companies by controlling

technology that is widely available from other countries while failing to

prevent unique technology from falling into dangerous hands. Moreover, controls

often lag behind technological developments. And because the international

regime for coordinating export controls was disbanded under the Clinton/Gore

administration, the United States now frequently finds itself trying to

single-handedly prevent diversion of sensitive technology. We need a sensible

export policy — a policy that protects our national security — but we must

also recognize that the competitiveness of our high-technology sector is

itself a critical component of that security. Such a policy must consist

of several key elements.

Bush also wants to develop a tough-minded, common-sense export control

system that safeguards military technology while allowing American companies

to sell technology that is readily available in the commercial market. First

and foremost, we must strengthen America's intelligence and counterintelligence

capabilities to staunch the theft of sensitive military technology at home

and identify threats abroad before they arise.

Second, we must allow American companies to sell products in the international

marketplace when those products are readily available from their foreign

competitors. That means easing export controls on computers and encryption

products that can already be purchased on the open market. At the same time,

as the use of encryption programs increases, American law enforcement must

always have the resources to stay ahead of the criminal use of that technology.

In addition, Bush supports bipartisan Senate legislation that reauthorizes

the Export Administration Act (EAA) and allows companies to export products

when those products are already readily available in foreign or mass markets.

Under the current system, controls are generally based on technical

specifications (such as raw computing power) that consistently lag behind

technological developments, resulting in unilateral U.S. restrictions on

widely available technologies. Such restrictions needlessly penalize U.S.

businesses while failing to strengthen our national security.

For those items not already available in foreign or mass markets — and

therefore requiring a license — Bush would work to streamline and expedite

the license approval and post-shipping reporting processes. This effort

would recognize the brief nature of most product cycles for the limited

number of high-tech products that require a license.

To further streamline the export review process, Bush would establish

the president's Technology Export Council (PTEC), which would report regularly.

PTEC's membership would include technology-sector representatives. It would

meet regularly to monitor the implementation and operation of the EAA, with

special attention to whether products are already available in mass or foreign

markets.

The world is changing and so must the attitude of government. As president,

Bush would work to lift barriers to innovation and fight efforts in the

United States and overseas to impose new obstacles. One priority would be

pursuing an international agenda that supports America's high-technology

companies.

Finally, Bush understands that to be prosperous as a world economy,

we Americans must embrace free trade. So he would fight to tear down the

international barriers to innovation that have already been raised and work

to ensure that new ones are not erected. Among other things, Bush would:

* Make the Internet a duty-free and tariff-free zone worldwide.

* Fight to tear down nontariff barriers to trade in information technology.

* Step up efforts to combat piracy of American ideas and intellectual

property.

* Promote the development of internationally compatible standards for

e-commerce.

In all these things, Bush is committed to encouraging and supporting

solutions conceived, developed and led by industry itself, wherever possible.

He also plans to establish a stable environment that encourages research

and innovation without attempting to direct them. One key way to spur creativity

is enacting a permanent tax credit for research and development. The R&D

Experimentation Tax Credit would encourage long-term investment in research

by high-technology companies and thereby strengthen America's technological

leadership. It is time to get rid of the temporary on-again, off-again nature

of this credit, which confuses and disrupts corporate planning. As president,

Bush would lead Congress toward making the tax credit permanent. He has

also proposed doubling the research budget of the National Institutes of

Health.

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