Compaq helping N.C. digital divide

North Carolina's push to breach the digital divide in its rural counties has received a boost from Compaq Computer Corp., which is funding a credit purchase program to help bring affordable, high-speed access to all parts of the state.

The program will provide credits for each computer system that the company sells to state agencies, schools and individual government workers via the North Carolina State Employees Purchase Program contract that it holds with the state. The credits should be worth between $50,000 and $100,000 to the state, which it can trade in for additional Compaq systems.

"We are looking to outfit public centers around the state where people can come to get onto the Internet, and where they can also be trained on how to use computers and the Internet," said Kathryn Viets, a spokeswoman for the state's e-NC Initiative (www.e-nc.org). "We have three in place now and another two on the way, and the Compaq computers and servers we get for the credits will prove invaluable for these."

Compaq is the only company that has set up this kind of credit program, Viets said. Other companies contribute to the e-NC Initiative through such means as loaning out top people to the program.

"When the legislation was passed to form the North Carolina Rural Internet Access Authority [which runs the e-NC Initiative], our folks looked at what they were doing and liked what they saw," said Bill Carver, senior manager for public affairs at Compaq. "With our program, the state can put six or eight computers into these public centers, compared to the four or so they can afford to put into them now."

The credit program is expected to last at least for the next year, and applies to equipment ranging from handheld personal digital assistants all the way up to Compaq's ProLiant servers.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

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

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