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Networks for People 2001

Focusing on Results

TOP's Networks for People 2001 was held on December 6 and 7, 2001, in Washington, DC. The conference focused on RESULTS — TOP projects that are making a lasting impact and continuing to work in their communities. In addition to nationally-recognized speakers on information technology issues, TOP recipients discussed how non-profit and public sector groups use digital network technologies. Attendance at this year's TOP Networks for People conference was up considerably — an overflow crowd from 44 states attended the event on December 6 and 7 in Washington, DC, at the Renaissance Hotel.

The theme for 2001 was "Focusing on Results," with an emphasis on sharing TOP's best practices and active promotion of public-private partnerships to ensure successful projects. NTIA's new Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, Nancy J. Victory, opened the conference. In her introductory remarks, she outlined her vision for the agency in the years to come, noting that the Bush Administration will be working to remove any policy roadblocks so that new technologies and telecommunications services can be made available to the public. But, she added, "we're looking to you to come up with the beneficial ways to make these technologies work for America." Noting that "TOP serves as a testing ground where telecommunications policy meets practice, where promise often struggles with reality," Assistant Secretary Victory challenged TOP applicants to come up with best practices in applying telecommunications and information technology.

Dr. Tracy Gray of the Morino Institute discussed a study developed by the Venture Philanthropy Partners and McKinsey and Company on building technology capacity for non-profit organizations. Several TOP projects were featured in the McKinsey study and TOP served on the advisory committee to that study.

A plenary panel of industry experts and an author of a recently-released National Research Council study on "First Mile" broadband developments discussed ways to encourage broadband deployment, as well as the implications of the Council's findings for non-profit and public sector organizations. The study makes a strong recommendation for local involvement and its support in the future of broadband systems and services deployment. Industry panelists stressed the importance of developing a solid business plan for public-private partnerships, particularly in deploying a broadband technology project.

Luncheon entertainment included William Hays and Sandi McLeod presenting the TOP-supported Vermont Millennium Arts Project and a live performance of Vermont students' compositions, performed by the University of Maryland's Synergy Winds woodwind ensemble.

The afternoon sessions featured panels of TOP-supported projects that empirical evaluations show have had exceptional impact. One panel discussed "The Rural Challenge: Providing Vital Services Online" while another talked about "Healthy Results." These panels were followed by discussions on "Community Crises and the Online Response" and "Tapping Community Resources."

Discussions focused on economic development efforts in rural communities; using telemedicine to respond to medical traumas in rural areas; computers for the homebound and disabled residents of rural Tennessee; using computers to track destructive tornadoes in tornado alley; ensuring privacy for persons with HIV/AIDS; providing citizens in low-income communities with sophisticated, easy-to-use online tools to track neighborhood assets; using computers and GIS software to manage water resources in the west — and much more. TOP maintains a searchable database on its website which provides information on all of the 530 TOP-funded projects.

The last day of the conference was devoted to a workshop on TOP's Fiscal Year 2002 Grant Round — TOP's mission and strategy, how to apply, what constitutes an eligible application, how to develop a budget and an evaluation plan, and other information on the TOP process.

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