Communities split millions to fight digital divide

Calling it an era of "digital inclusion," U.S. Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta recently awarded $14 million to projects that address the digital divide in underserved areas across the country.

The Commerce Department's annual Technology Opportunities Program grants were announced at a Washington, D.C., charter school run by the See Forever Foundation, which received $395,000 to create a neighborhood technology center to train residents in computer and Internet usage.

"These projects will expand the circle of opportunity so all Americans will have a chance to experience this robust economy driven by the digital economy," Mineta said. Commerce, which received 662 applications, will seek $45 million from Congress for the program next fiscal year, he said.

Federal funds will also be matched by $18 million raised by grant recipients from project partners and sponsors.

Some other grant recipients are:

    * The County Sheriffs of Colorado plans to use $370,000 to build a statewide, interagency system of victim/offender information for its 62 offices and several hundred local law enforcement agencies.

    * The Baltimore City Health Department proposed creating an interactive database application to track and reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. It received $480,000.

    * Hennepin County, Minn., will expand on a pilot project in which smart cards are used to increase volunteerism and investment in local communities. The county received $298,000.

    * The Suquamish Indian Tribe, Wash., will get $410,000 to equip a recreational vehicle with computers, mobile wireless technology and a satellite downlink that will travel to housing developments and Early Head Start programs so elementary-age children can learn to use technology.

    * Portland, Ore., will create an interactive network database of metropolitan housing resources to reduce homelessness and track affordable housing. The city received $480,000.

    * The South Carolina Department of Education will refurbish donated computers and redistribute them to poor, rural families for use in their homes and provide Internet access and training. It was awarded nearly $350,000.

    * The Pueblo of Santa Ana will get about $490,000 to create a broadband wireless community intranet to share information among its 12 government entities and provide high-speed Internet access through a computer or television for all community members.

A full list of this year's grant winners is available at www.ntia.doc.gov/otiahome/top/grants/fy2000awards.html.

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