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$130M for tech gap – Big companies back black schools

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Three technology leaders – Microsoft, IBM and AT&T – will work together to provide more than $130 million in resources to the United Negro College Fund to close the “digital divide” in higher education.

The partnership aims to build technology infrastructures and improve computer access for students and faculty members at historically black colleges and universities.

Less than half the faculty at the 39 schools that are members of the College Fund own a computer, compared to 70 percent of college faculty throughout the U.S.

Roughly 75 percent of the existing hardware at historically black institutions is obsolete or needs to be replaced, the College Fund says.

“The ‘digital divide’ in higher education is greater than the digital divide among the nation’s households,” says William h. Gray III, president and CEO of the College Fund.

Microsoft is donating $50 million in software and training materials to schools, bringing its six-year support of the College Fund to $75 million in cash and software contributions.

IBM will provide access to tech equipment and services valued at more than $50 million. The gift will provide 100 historically black institutions with substantially discounted computers for faculty, staff and students. 

AT&T will contribute $1 million to help faculty members integrate information technology into their curriculum and build tech-assisted research techniques.

The United Negro College Fund has raised more than $1.4 billion to support its 39 member institutions through programs that include scholarships, mentoring programs, study abroad programs and  curriculum development.

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