Tech retreat – Big shift in policy

In a major shift in federal policy, President Bush is preparing to chop government programs to deliver computers and Internet access to poor and underserved areas, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 14.

In a separate matter, Hewlett-Packard Co. says it is forming tech partnerships with two poor communities and will invest $5 million in each over the next three years.

Bush has proposed a 65 percent cut – to $15 million from this year’s $42.5 million – in the Technology Opportunities Program that was boosted by the Clinton administration and many high-tech chiefs.

The cut in the program – formerly known as the Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program, or TIIAP – was quietly okayed last week by the Commerce Department, the Journal said.

The change could further weaken ties between Bush and blacks, who in the 2000 presidential election preferred former Vice President Gore over Bush by 9 to 1, the newspaper said.

Bush’s expected pullback in spurring Web use among minorities, poor and people in rural areas comes as divide is growing between whites, with far greater access to technology, and blacks and Hispanics.

While Bush in the past has said government should close tech gaps between rich and poor and urban and rural Americans, some experts fear the impact of the proposed cuts in the face of a slumping economy that already has prompted declines in charitable giving by some leading tech firms, the Journal said.

Hewlett-Packard announced it had selected the Southern California Tribal Community and East Baltimore’s Empowerment Zone as HP Digital Villages.

Selected from more than 200 underserved communities in the U.S., each communities will receive HP products, services, consulting and social venture capital to put tech partnership plans into effect over the next three years.

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