DOC Press Releases
For Immediate Release
Sept. 28, 2000
Contact: Morrie Goodman
(202) 482-4883
Ranjit de Silva
(202) 482-7002
Art Brodsky
(202) 482-0019

Commerce Secretary Mineta Announces $13.9 Million in Matching Fund Awards to
Non-Profits for Innovative Uses of Advanced Technologies

Washington, DC - Commerce Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today announced the award of $13.9 million in Federal grants to 35 organizations across the United States to help move the U.S. to an era of digital inclusion by funding innovative uses of advanced telecommunications technologies in underserved areas.

The grants, provided by the Department's Technology Opportunities Program (TOP), will be matched by contributions from the private sector and state and local organizations. "It's important to note that these awards are not "federal" initiatives -- all of these projects come from the community," pointed out Mineta. "They reflect a fundamental approach the program has always taken -- issue a broad challenge and then let local communities identify their own needs and propose their own creative applications of technology." The Federal funds will be matched by $18 million raised by the grant recipients from their project partners and sponsors.

Mineta announced the awards while speaking at the Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. The school is home to the See Forever Foundation, a non-profit organization that received a $395,000 award from the TOP program to develop ShawNet, a community network that will use information technology to help residents of a low-income inner city neighborhood solve local problems, such as creating access for the elderly and training teens in computer skills.

Mineta at Maya Angelou School

"The awards I am announcing today highlight how innovative applications of information technology can make a community a better place to live," Mineta said. "This year's grant recipients are leading the way in developing local initiatives moving from digital divide to digital inclusion." Mineta added, "My enthusiasm today is tempered only by my frustration that TOP does not have the funds to support more of the excellent applications that we received." President Clinton has proposed increasing TOP's appropriation to $45 million in his FY 2001 budget request.

After a thorough peer review process, the 35 awards were selected from a field of 662 applications. In addition, this year's grants bring the benefits of new technologies to underserved areas across the country. Twenty-two grants will involve remote rural areas, and nearly half of the projects will ensure that distressed, urban communities have access to digital opportunities.

Examples of the variety of applications that illustrate the promise that information technologies hold include:

  • The Pine Tree Legal Assistance project in Maine will use Internet-based technology to create a secure network linking domestic violence shelters to courtrooms to let victims of domestic abuse obtain court-ordered protection and access to legal services. Domestic violence victims will also be able to submit video affidavits from the safety of local domestic violence shelters. The TOP grant is $374,996.
  • MetroNashville-Davidson County, Tennessee, will use the web to make local government more accessible to citizens, help them understand complex civic issues, and involve them in community planning activities. For example, citizens will be able to view alternative design proposals for land use and development online and then express their preferences. The TOP grant is $424,000.
  • The University of Rochester's School of Medicine in New York will use telemedicine in daycare settings for consultations between pediatricians and daycare professionals, which will reduce the frequency of medical emergencies and reduce stress on working parents by making medical services more readily available at daycare. The TOP grant is $330,000.
  • Hennepin County, Minnesota, will pilot the Community HeroCard program for a neighborhood in South Minneapolis. Using smart card technology, the program will increase volunteerism and investment in an underserved urban area by giving residents an incentive to support their local businesses and to volunteer at community-based organizations. The TOP grant award is $298,000.

"I am particularly excited to see that this year's TOP grantees will continue to push the envelope and explore the potential that emerging technologies hold," said Gregory L. Rohde, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which administers TOP.

Noting that NTIA was able to fund only a small percentage of the applications, Rohde called on the private sector to support many projects that were proposed. Information on all of the applications TOP received can be found on the NTIA web site,

"More than a third of these technologies will employ either broadband or wireless technologies, which I believe will open up new worlds of possibilities," Rohde said. "The grants also represent a diverse array of cutting-edge broadband technologies." For example,

  • the Digital Bridge Foundation will bring high-speed DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) Internet connections directly into the homes of low-income families in Boston, Massachusetts;
  • the Suquamish Indian Tribe will use broadband wireless technology to provide tribal children with access to online educational resources;
  • the Cleveland Museum of Art will use broadband Internet video technology to provide community residents with interactive arts programming; and

Project descriptions for all of the FY 2000 grants are available at the NTIA web site,

Representatives of the 35 grant recipients will be honored later this fall at TOP's annual Networks for People conference, to be held in Crystal City, Virginia on October 30-31. (Note: conference information available on TOP web site,

TOP is administered by the U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). NTIA serves as the principal adviser to the President, Vice President and Secretary of Commerce on domestic and international communications and information issues and represents the Executive Branch before the Congress, other Federal agencies, foreign governments and international organizations.