California seeks bridge for "investment divide"

The Advanced Policy Institute (API), an arm of the University of California,

Los Angeles, School of Public Policy and Social Research, has received a

grant from an industry/government consortium to develop a statewide "electronic

community" platform aimed at increasing access for poor communities to financial

and investment sources.

Neighborhood Knowledge California (NKCA) will use Next Generation Internet

technology to deliver these services, an attempt to overcome the "investment

divide," and will develop along with efforts to bridge the better-known

digital divide.

As they move more to the Web to deliver services, so the theory goes,

financial institutions will find it economical to provide financing to previously

disenfranchised communities that are also increasing their use of computers

and the Web.

The grant was awarded by CommerceNet, an industry and government consortium

focused on e-commerce. The value of the grant, described as being "in the

six-figures," was not disclosed.

The main component of the NKCA is a statewide property data system that

will help investigators see what the patterns of investment and disinvestment

are throughout California.

"We'll be able to integrate data sets across the state so that we can

compare neighborhoods and other areas," said Nick Rattray, an API project

manager. "Then we can use the information we get from those comparisons

to bring attention at the policy level to the investment divide, as well

as use it for such things as grant applications."

NKCA will also include tools that community groups and local and state

governments can use to regularly update Web site information so that the

property database is kept current. Other extensions will include a project

directory for community networking to enable groups to build their own project

Web sites and eventually to allow online video training to help user groups

get the most out of NKCA's functionality.

The initial NKCA site will launch in the first or second quarter of

2002, said Rattray. The CommerceNet grant is only for the first year's funding

of NKCA, but Rattray expects it will take three years to completely build

the platform.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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