Report touts federal role in solving digital divide – tech briefs – Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund and the Benton Foundation

Report touts federal role in solving digital divide – tech briefs – Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund and the Benton Foundation – Brief Article

Ronald Roach

WASHINGTON

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund and the Benton Foundation last month issued a report concluding that federal leadership is essential to getting Americans online due to the technology gaps remaining along economic, racial and geographic lines.

The report, “Bringing a Nation Online: The Importance of Federal Leadership,” explores data released earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Commerce in its report “A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Interact.” The Commerce Department’s report showed major gains in access to computers and the Interact for all Americans. The report released earlier this month contends that despite these gains, a significant divide remains over income, race and ethnicity, geography and disability. As a result, many Americans have yet to see the social, civic, educational and economic benefits of the information age.

“Bringing a Nation Online” spotlights the work of two programs–the Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) and the Community Technology Center’s (CTC) program. The federal initiatives were launched during the 1990s to narrow access gaps. The report profiles 44 TOP and CTC projects in 25 states that demonstrate the federal government’s record in assisting a wide range of Americans to gain access to technology, enhance economic opportunity, and build community services. The TOP and CTC programs are slated for elimination in the Bush administration’s FY03 budget.

“`Bringing a Nation Online’ shows the important role the federal government is playing in supporting innovative, community-based partnerships that can move people and communities from poverty to prosperity,” says Wade Henderson, counsel of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund. “The Commerce Department’s data should be used to guide and strengthen federal programs that bridge the opportunity divide, not as an excuse to eliminate them, as the Bush administration has proposed.”

To date, TOP has awarded 530 grants, in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, totaling $192.5 million and leveraging $268 million in local matching funds. The CTC program has awarded 227 grants based on a $107.5 million allocation from Congress that has leveraged $92.5 million in non-federal matching funds.

Earlier this summer, a coalition of more than 100 national organizations led by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights launched the Digital Empowerment Campaign an education and outreach initiative to ensure that the TOP and CTC programs are not eliminated.

The entire report can be accessed online at .

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