By Todd Cohen
America Online has recruited a heavy-hitter to head up its effort to help close the gap between those with access to technology and those without access.
B. Keith Fulton, former director of technology programs and policy for the National Urban League, has been named to the new post of executive director of corporate relations for AOL, which is investing $20 million in digital divide initiatives.
“AOL’s unique value is that it’s the front-runner in the interactive space and we want to bring that know-how and experience to bear as part of the solution to solving the digital divide,” Fulton says.
Fulton, who will report to David Eisner, AOL’s vice president for corporate relations, will help run existing initiatives and develop new efforts to make the Web more broadly accessible.
Fulton worked at the National Urban League for 10 years to deliver technology to poor communities, and to promote policy issues involving the digital economy.
His work included developing technology education and access centers for youngsters and adults in poor neighborhoods, promoting tech use at the Urban League’s 115 affiliates and immersing himself in policy debates among lawmakers, corporations, nonprofits and foundations.
At AOL, Fulton inherits a handful of tech initiatives. They include:
* A “portal” Web site at www.digitaldividenetwork.org that serves as an online clearinghouse for industry, nonprofits and government.
* Digital divide grants from the AOL Foundation.
* Digital Opportunity Partnership, an education campaign involving AOL and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights that will be launched this summer.
* Powerup.org, a collaborative effort that includes America’s Promise, the Corporation for National Service and the Case Foundation that will build a curriculum for community tech centers and develop them in communities throughout the U.S.
* Helping.org, a portal Web site for donors, volunteers and nonprofits that features a broad range of resources on digital divide issues.
* Rural telecommunications leadership awards.
* Community Education Initiative, a collaboration with the Children’s Partnership to work with lawmakers on digital divide issues.
In the face of the booming U.S. economy that’s being driven by technology, Fulton says, “it is good for our country to leave no one behind.”
Employers’ biggest shortage is workers, he said, and adults and youngsters alike need to be trained to compete in a global marketplace.
“Our country is browning,” he says. “Increasingly, we will rely on each other to keep the economy going. It’s in our naked self-interest as a nation to make sure we leave nobody behind.”