Private sector competition and rapid technological progress are powerful forces to bridgethe digital divide and make Information Age tools available for more and more Americans. The information technology industry is able to double the amount of computing power available at a given price every 12-18 months, and is now selling low-cost computers and "information appliances" -- such as specialized Internet access devices. Some companies are even offering free, advertiser-supported Internet access. By working with the private sector and community-based organizations, the Administration can accelerate the trend toward expanded access.
But access to technology is only the first step. We also need to give people the skills they need to use technology, to promote content and applications of technology that will help empower under-served communities, and to ensure that teachers can use technology effectively in the classroom. Below is a brief description of the initiatives that President Clinton and Vice President Gore are proposing to help accomplish these goals:
- $2 billion over 10 years in tax incentives to encourage private sector donation of computers, sponsorship of community technology centers, and technology training for workers: President Clinton's budget includes $2 billion in new tax incentives to encourage companies to donate computers to schools, libraries and community technology centers, to sponsor schools, libraries, and community technology centers in designated Empowerment Zones, and to provide basic computer training, workplace literacy, or other basic education for their employees.
- Encouraging companies to donate computers. The President proposes to extend and expand tax eduction that gives companies an incentive to donate computers to schools, libraries and computer technology centers. This enhanced deduction allows companies to deduct more than the cost of their donation. Under current law, this deduction applies to donations of computers to schools only and expires after the year 2000. The President's proposal would extend this provision through June 30, 2004 and would expand it to donations to public libraries or community technology centers in Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities, and high-poverty areas.
- Promoting corporate sponsorship of schools, libraries and community technology centers. The President proposes tax relief to encourage companies to sponsor schools and community technology centers in Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities. The President's proposal would allocate credits for $16 million in corporate sponsorship to each of the 31 existing Empowerment Zones and 10 proposed new Empowerment Zones and $4 million in corporate sponsorship for each of the more than 80 Enterprise Communities. In total, the President's proposal would help support up to nearly $1 billion in annual sponsorships to help improve schools and community technology centers.
- Supporting technology training for workers. The President's proposal would provide targeted tax relief to encourage companies to provide basic computer training, workplace literacy, or other basic education for employees that lack the basic skills to succeed in the modern workplace. Companies would be allowed to take a 20 percent tax credit for up to $5,250 in annual expenses per employee. Eligible employees generally would not have received a high school degree or its equivalent.
$150 million to help train all new teachers entering the workforce use technology effectively in the classroom: Under the leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, the United States has made enormous progress in connecting schools to the Internet, and increasing the number of modern computers in the classroom. However, access to computers and the Internet will not help students achieve high academic standards unless teachers are as comfortable with a computer as they are with a chalkboard. President Clinton's budget calls for $150 million in Department of Education grants -- double the last year's investment of $75 million -- to ensure that all new teachers entering the workforce are technologically literate and can integrate technology into the curriculum. The need for this investment is clear. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 20 percent of teachers report that they are "very well prepared" to integrate technology into classroom.
And over the net 10 years, K-12 schools will need to hire 2 million new teachers to fill the vacancies left by retiring teachers and to accommodate increasing student populations.
$100 million to create up to 1,000 Community Technology Centers in low-income urban and rural communities: The President's budget more than triples the Department of Education's support for Community Technology Centers - from $32.5 million in FY2000 to $100 million in FY2001. This initiative, championed by Congresswoman Maxine Waters was initially funded at $10 million in fiscal year 1999. The goal of the initiative is to help close the "digital divide" by providing computers and Information Age tools to children and adults that are not able to afford them at home. These community technology centers will help empower hundreds of thousands of low-income children and adults in a variety of ways. Children will be able to improve their performance in school by having access to high-quality educational software after school and prepare for the high-tech workplace of the 21st century by getting certified with an information technology skill.
Adults will be able to use computers and the Internet to take a self-paced adult literacy course; get access to America's Job Bank to see what jobs are available; learn to type up a resume and cover letter using word processing software; learn to start up their own "micro-enterprise" or Web-based business, or acquire new training. A study sponsored by the National Science Foundation confirms that Community Technology Centers are helping to bridge the digital divide. Of the users surveyed: 62 percent had incomes of less than $15,000; 65 percent took computer classes to improve their job skills; and 41 percent got homework help or tutoring at the center.
$50 million for a public/private partnership to expand home access to computers and the Internet for low-income families: The President's budget includes a new $50 million Department of Commerce pilot program to expand access to computers and the Internet for low-income families, and to give these families the skills they need to use these new Information Age tools effectively. This new program will provide competitive grants to public-private partnerships at the local level. Potential partners might include: local school districts seeking to expand parental involvement in education; high-tech companies willing to provide discounts on computers and access; libraries offering training on "information literacy"; employers seeking to upgrade the skills of their workforce using distance learning, and government agencies at all levels seeking to save taxpayer dollars through the electronic delivery of government services. The Administration will continue to work with the private sector
and non-profit organizations on the most effective way to design this program.
$45 million to promote innovative applications of information technology for under-served communities: President Clinton's budget will increase the investment in the Department of Commerce's highly-successful Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) to $45 million -- triple the current level of $15 million. This program encourages innovative applications of information technology that help empower low-income communities -- public health information systems that raise childhood immunization rates in inner-cities, tele-mentoring for at-risk youth, and electronic networks that strengthen local communities by fostering communication and collaboration.
$25 million to accelerate private sector deployment of high-speed networks in under-served urban and rural communities: High-speed Internet access is becoming as important to the economic vitality of a community as roads and bridges are today. The President will propose a new $25 million program at the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture to accelerate private sector deployment of broadband networks in under-served urban and rural communities -- using grants and loan guarantees. The potential payoff from these kinds of investments is enormous. One company, for example, has helped people move from "welfare-to-work" by connecting their community with the high-speed networks needed to support telecommuting. This solves some of the biggest barriers associated with welfare-to-work -- lack of childcare and transportation.
$10 million to prepare Native Americans for careers in information technology and other technical fields: The National Science Foundation will support efforts by tribal colleges to increase the number of Native Americans who are prepared to pursue careers in information technology and other technical fields.
The ability to use technology is becoming increasingly important in the workplace, and jobs in the rapidly growing information technology sector pay almost 80 percent more than the average private sector wage.
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