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Coalition fights digital gap

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By Todd Cohen

Giving young people greater access to the Internet and digital technology is the focus of a new initiative being coordinated by The Children’s Partnership in Santa Monica, Calif.

Known as the Young Americans & the Digital Future Campaign, the initiative is a collaborative effort among national and regional groups targeting state and local policymakers and business and civic leaders.

The campaign, to last several years, initially will distribute data and information tools to connect state leaders with local schools, community tech projects and other efforts that can be models for delivering technology to youngsters, particularly those who are poor or underserved.

The campaign then will serve as a technical resource and advocate to help develop tech policies.

The Children’s Partnership, a national research and advocacy group, has developed an online toolkit featuring national and state-by-state data on Web use by children and families, national and state agendas for tech policy and resources for policymakers.

The campaign is being launched in the face of declining federal support to address the “digital divide” between those with access to technology and those without access, says Wendy Lazarus, executive director of The Children’s Partnership.

Federal spending for community technology centers fell 41 percent to $64.9 million in fiscal 2002 from $110 million in fiscal 2001, she said.

And the budget proposal by the Bush administration calls for killing that technology-center program plus another that placed computers in classrooms.

At the same time, Lazarus says, much of the “responsibility for addressing the digital divide is now being taken up by cities and states.”

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