Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2000
Ranjit de Silva
New Commerce Secretary to begin Digital Inclusion tour with visit
WASHINGTON-Commerce Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today released a new report that discusses how a Commerce Department program is demonstrating that ready access to information technologies can help promote development in America's communities and help them keep pace with social and economic advances in the 21st Century.
"As the Secretary of Commerce, I want to see the nation move from a period of 'digital divide' to one of 'digital inclusion'," Secretary Mineta said. "This report, Community Connections: Preserving Local Values in the Information Age, presents a compelling case for including all of our communities in the digital revolution," he said.
On Thursday, Secretary Mineta will begin his digital inclusion tour in Philadelphia with an event to highlight participation of senior citizens online. Visits are planned to several other cities in the coming weeks. The tour is a continuation of the Administration's long-standing interest in the issue, including former Commerce Secretary William M. Daley's series of visits around the country highlighting the need to make sure that everyone has access to the best information and telecommunications technology. A report by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued last year said the gap between Americans with access and those without access to information technologies---tools critical for economic success and advancement---had widened in recent years. It also said that the country's senior citizens trail all other age groups in computer ownership and Internet access.
The report released today profiles projects funded under the Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) administered by the department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). It illustrates how 11 communities sought to ensure that powerful new information technologies strengthened, not weakened, the bonds between neighbors.
"This report illustrates how communities are discovering ways to use information technology to learn more about their own neighborhoods, to gain new insights into local problems and to use it to improve their lives," Secretary Mineta said. "It shows how networking tools are helping local communities keep pace with social and economic advances in the 21st century," he added.
Secretary Mineta also called on Congress to increase funding for the TOP program, which is at its lowest level since it was created in 1994. The Administration's request is to increase TOP funding to $45 million to support innovative local projects to close the digital divide. "I really hope Congress will join in the effort to close the digital divide by increasing funding for the TOP program," Mineta said.
"TOP funded projects outlined in this report illustrate the fully-connected community of the 21st century that uses local information as a vital community asset, empowering citizens to compete electronically in the global economy," Gregory L. Rohde, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator, said.
The TOP program promotes the widespread availability and use of advanced
telecommunications technologies in the public and non-profit sectors. TOP
grants are provided for model projects demonstrating innovative uses of
network technology to benefit communities across the country, especially
those in rural and underserved areas.