Texas drafts digital blueprint

"Bringing Digital Opportunity to All Texans"

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Texas should provide more scholarships to economically disadvantaged students in technology fields and boost the number of math teachers and engineering graduates, according to a state report released Monday.

In addition to the technology-related education recommendations, the 45-page report, "Bringing Digital Opportunity to All Texans" also proposed that the state government should work more closely with the private sector to develop a larger technology workforce from within the state; foster more technology-related economic growth; provide more government services online; and address the digital divide.

It also called for the creation of a state technology commissioner and state technology council to advise the governor and legislature and act as a liaison for the technology community.

"It's really a blueprint for a lot of things," said Eric Bearse, spokesman for Lt. Gov. Rick Perry. Last November, the governor created the 25-member Advisory Council on the Digital Economy, which released the report. The council was composed of lawmakers and technology and other private-sector representatives.

"This will provide a focus on technology — not only government's use of it but also developing strategies to attract technology companies to the state and develop regions of the state," Bearse added. "It's also to make the digital divide a digital opportunity and to reform education by focusing on math and science."

Bearse said he expects the state legislature to act on many of the report's recommendations when it convenes next January.

Some highlights of report include:

    * Developing incentives to increase the number of math teachers and students interested in math, such as creating math and science camps and promoting hands-on science museums.

    * Increasing teacher training, professional development and technical support in schools.

    * Bringing high-tech professionals to teach in the classrooms.

    * Creating a public/private fund to provide tuition to disadvantaged high school graduates to pursue technical degrees at community colleges, junior colleges or technical schools.

    * Targeting community college graduates for university-based engineering programs to increase and retain such professionals.

    * Creating a nonprofit clearinghouse of public, nonprofit and private enterprises to donate computers and job training services to disadvantaged families.

    * Piloting online voter registration and voting.

A recent Brown University study ranked Texas as one of the top states in providing e-government services to its citizens. Two weeks ago, the Lone Star State also unveiled a new one-stop shop Web portal (www.TexasOnline.com) for services, such as renewing certain licenses and certifications, applying for permits, and filing state sales taxes.

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