published by
The Technology Opportunities Program
of the
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce
Summer 2001 (Vol. 4, No. 3)
TOP Update is a quarterly electronic newsletter highlighting digital network technology projects funded by TOP. TOP projects are nationally significant demonstrations of advanced network technologies can be used to extend and improve the delivery of valuable services and opportunities to all Americans. The newsletter is a collaboration of TOP and its various projects across the nation.
EDITOR: Judith Sparrow, TOP Program Officer, Washington, DC

In This Issue:

TOP Program Information

  • American Telemedicine Association Spotlights TOP Grantees
  • TOP's Latest Evaluation Report
  • Look for TOP Program Officers at These Upcoming Events
  • Faces of TOP: Roger Hansen, Sevier River Water Users Association
  • Networks for People 2001 - TOP's Annual Conference
TOP Projects by Subject Matter

    Community Services

  • Digital Village Brings Urban Connectivity
  • Creating a Model for Managing a Scarce Resource


  • American Telemedicine Association Spotlights TOP Grantees
  • TENKIDS Project Wins Drucker Award


American Telemedicine Association Spotlights TOP Grantees

In early June, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) held its annual conference in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, drawing more than 2,000 attendees ranging from practitioners of telemedicine and technology providers to funders and policy-makers. The event showcased latest developments in telemedicine technology and services. Topics ranged from venture capital funding to the intricacies of emerging telemedicine standards and the promise of portable wireless applications.

A common theme among many of the presentations was the continued need to demonstrate telemedicine's value, both for cost effectiveness and service quality. Many presentations focused on the measurable results of telemedicine — a practice TOP encourages. Mike Caputo from the University of Vermont (TOP '99) presented survey data on the perceived value of video consults over traditional treatment of patients in rural trauma centers. Robert Bratton from the Mayo Clinic offered evidence of high patient and physician satisfaction with telemedicine in a retirement community. Samuel G. Burgiss from the University of Tennessee Medical Center analyzed patterns among 34 patients using telemedicine at home and found that readmission rates were significantly lower for those that had telemedicine access than those that did not.

And, a team from Lemuel Shattuck Hospital (TOP '99) in Boston earned an ATA award for their presentation on "HIV Care for Inmates: A Comparison of Telemedicine and Face-to-Face Clinics." Prisons are increasingly faced with caring for inmates with costly chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hypertension, diabetes and coronary artery disease. In fact, health care cost for this population rose 91 percent in the first half of this decade. The project demonstrates telemedicine as a more cost-effective means of providing care to inmates.

The event highlighted not only the progress and promise of telemedicine, but also the challenges that remain to wider utilization of these network tools. The hurdles, including an evolving reimbursement structure, reluctance from the medical mainstream, consumer concerns regarding privacy, and practitioner credentialing, were discussed and translated into a framework of priorities for those involved in telemedicine.

For more information, see


Look For TOP Program Officers at These Upcoming Events!

September 13: Technology and Human Services in a Multi-Cultural Society, at the 6th annual conference of Human Services Information Technology Applications (HUSITA) (Charleston, SC).

September 20: Summit on Welfare Reform, Job Training & Beyond hosted by National Institute for Government Innovation (Arlington, VA).

September 23-26: 2nd annual Indian Telecom Training Initiative (ITTI), a conference jointly sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission and the National Exchange Carrier Association (Las Vega, NV).

October 3: Federal funding panel at Telehealth 2001, sponsored by the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the Association of Telemedicine Service Providers (ASTP) (Orlando, FL).


TOP's Latest Evaluation Report

In July, TOP released its third in a series of independent evaluation reports. The Evaluation Report: Technology Opportunities Program 1996-1997 Projects summarizes findings from a survey of 42 TOP projects that were completed and no longer receiving funds as of June, 2000. Download the report from TOP's website.


News From the Field

TENKIDS Project Wins Drucker Award

Each week, the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management chooses an organization for the "Innovation of the Week." The week of June 20-28 saw the TENKIDS program of the Critical Illness and Trauma Foundation (TOP '98) receive the award. By providing educational opportunities and resources, the Drucker Foundation furthers its mission to lead social sector organizations toward excellence in performance. TENKIDS is an on-demand, dial-up computer network that supports Montana's rural volunteer emergency medical services providers with essential resources, distance learning opportunities, and a state-of-the-art data collection to help improve their performance. Working with Montana State University's Burns Telecommunications Center (TOP '96), they installed computers in 116 of 121 ambulance services to create a virtual EMS community across Montana. The program also provides high quality training to rural volunteers through two-way interactive video, CD-ROM interactive programs, and web-based training, which can be accessed at home.

Contact Nels D. Sanddal.

TOP Grantee Named to Two FCC Panels

Michael Powell, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has nominated Karen Buller to the Board of Directors of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). USAC administers the Universal Service Fund, which provides communities across the country with access to affordable telecommunications services. Ms. Buller was elected to the Board in May, 2001, and was also appointed to the High Cost & Low Income Committee, where she represents low-income consumers. Ms. Buller is a member of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma and is the project director for TOP's grant to the National Indian Telecommunications Institute (NITI). She is the founder and CEO of NITI in New Mexico, dedicated to employing advanced technology to serve American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians in the area of education, economic development, language and cultural preservation, tribal policy, and self-determination.

Digital Village Brings Urban Connectivity

In a move to help a disadvantaged urban area, the computer company Hewlett Packard announced a $5 million grant to urban East Palo Alto, CA. Plugged In (TOP '95) is a part of HP's $15 million Digital Village program in East Palo Alto that combines technology, brainpower and collaborative energy to reinvent how communities address their most pressing issues. Plugged In is developing a community portal for this low-income area in the heart of Silicon Valley to allow collaboration and e-commerce transactions among residents, city government, small businesses, non-profits, churches, and other community organizations.

Networks for People 2001

This year, Networks for People 2001: Focusing on Results, will be held on December 6 and 7 in Washington, DC, at the Renaissance Hotel, 999 9th Street, NW. We will showcase TOP projects which have become models for digital network technology projects. The focus will be on "results" TOP projects that are making a lasting impact and continue to work in their communities. Make plans to come to NFP and join in the discussion. Mark your calendar and watch the TOP web page for more information.

Online registration is now open.

Get TOP Updates Online

Join Get Updates to receive information on TOP grant competitions, TOP evaluations and other special reports and special events. So, take a moment and join TOP's new email list. Go to the footer at the bottom of TOP's website (, click on Get Updates and sign up. It only takes a few seconds!

Creating a Model for Managing a Scarce Resource

Many farmers in Utah have hailed Roger Hansen as a hero. However, he thinks of himself in more modest terms as he states, "I'm just one of a large number of individuals who are all very dedicated and have been working hard on the project." The project he refers to is in the Sevier River Basin, a large, self-contained watershed in central Utah. Critical to the basin's economy is irrigated agriculture. If crops are over-watered or under-watered, crop yields are reduced and water problems arise. The need to improve water management and help conditions along the upper and lower regions of the basin sparked a TOP-funded project to the Sevier River Water Users Association.

Hansen, who works for the Bureau of Reclamation, is the project director. The water users project employs solar powered automation and interactive real-time technologies to help manage water resources in the upper and lower regions of the Sevier River in Utah.

Technology Aids Water Users

The water users apply information technologies to manage their farms, water supplies, and improve emergency response. Prior to this project, if an area was hit with unexpected weather changes, the River Commission would have to travel to the local reservoir or water ditch to adjust the water flow. Since this project, the Commission can maintain a reasonable supply of water, regardless of weather, without having to travel to the reservoir or send out the "ditch rider."

The project not only helps water users, but also indirect users as well. The National Weather Service has asked the project to provide them with data to assist in their real-time weather monitoring system. The water users association also shares data they collect with the local airport. Many of the pilots and airport personnel use the data to help assess weather conditions.

How does this project "really" happen? In one instance, canals at the end of the open channel systems frequently have trouble maintaining a consistent and reliable water supply. With automation and real-time technology, the river commission can maintain a reliable flow of water to all users. The water users apply the technology to better manage their farms and water supplies, and to share data with primary and secondary users in Utah.

Additional Uses

Hansen alludes to the future uses of the project such as using real-time information to help with tourism since boaters and hikers rely on the river's weather and water levels. The technologies used in the project can assist with public safety, provide better advisories of lightning and flash flood threats. Overall, the project represents an environmentally sound option for improving the quality of life and the local economy. The real-time transmission of data "has helped develop trust between all users of the river system," says Hansen. TOP's Judy Sparrow agrees: "The project has proved its value to end users by delivering water with more accuracy, and providing a better understanding of what happens in the river and canal systems."

The project is a collaborative effort among many partners, including Bureau of Reclamation, Stone Fly Technologies, Utah State University, National Weather Service, and Sevier River Canal companies. Connecting over 40 data collection and automation sites, a diverse real-time data system network helps the basin in many ways. Technology such as solar powered automation, secured wireless communications networks, and interactive real-time websites will help improve the economy of the river basin area, improve public safety by providing more timely emergency information, and enhance cultural resources and lifelong learning opportunities.

Special to TOP Updates, Kadesha Washington, Ph.D., Presidential Management Intern