The Gateway Foundation, the nonprofit arm of computer maker Gateway Inc., has launched a grant program that will provide 75,000 teachers with online computer training during the next five years. The program was one of several initiatives aimed at closing the digital divide announced by President Clinton during his New Markets Initiative Tour to spur economic development in depressed areas.

Clinton spent two days traveling from the Palo Alto, Calif., heart of Silicon Valley to Chicago, site of the spring 2000 Comdex computer trade show. During the trip, Clinton won more than $100 million in pledges from the computer industry to bring high-tech benefits to places missing out on America’s prosperity.

“This is one of those fortunate times when by doing the thing that is morally right, we actually help to keep America’s economic expansion churning forward,” Clinton said.

The goal of the Gateway Foundation’s program—called Teach America!—is to give educators critical skills and proficiency to help them realize the full benefits of technology in learning. The total cost of the training to be funded by Gateway is estimated at $7.6 million.

Through the Teach America! program, grant recipients will have access to hundreds of web-based courses that enable educators to take classes and refresher courses at their convenience.

Teachers can learn how to navigate the web effectively to find supplemental materials, develop extranets for sharing information with parents and students, and use popular software applications.

The self-paced, online training courses were developed by Gateway in partnership with ZD University, an online division of Ziff-Davis Inc. The Teach America! grants cover the tuition cost of the courses. Although more than 100 courses are available, about 10 to 12 have been recommended specifically for teachers.

Lisa Emard, a Gateway spokeswoman, said the courses emphasize core competency skills—but Gateway is looking at developing more content in the future, including courses that emphasize classroom applications of technology, Emard said.

All schools with tax-exempt status are eligible to apply. Grants will be made on the basis of two main criteria: (1) a school’s perceived need for technology training, and (2) its plan for using the training to improve classroom needs.

A panel from the Gateway Foundation will select recipients on a quarterly basis, but applications will be accepted throughout the year.

Other initiatives

At a stop on a Navajo reservation in northwest New Mexico, Clinton announced a plan to provide basic telephone service to American Indians for $1 a month. The plan would be financed by raising universal service fees on telecommunications carriers by 0.4 percent.

American Indians rank far below the national average in their access to telephones, computers, and the internet, the president said. In the Navajo Nation, only 22.5 percent of households have home telephone service, compared with the national average of 94 percent.

Gene Sperling, head of the president’s National Economic Council, said long-distance users would pay about a penny a month more if carriers pass the charge on to consumers. “This is a very worthwhile investment,” he said.

Microsoft Corp. also pledged more than $2.7 million in cash and software to help bridge the disparity between Indian tribes and wealthier segments of society.

Bill Gates’ Seattle-based software giant announced it would give $2.5 million worth of software and $200,000 in cash to be divided among eight tribal colleges. Each school will get a cash share of $25,000, Microsoft representative Jenny Moede said.

Other corporate initiatives that were announced during the president’s trip:

• Novell Inc. will donate $20 million in software to nonprofit organizations that help Hispanic organizations.

• Hewlett-Packard will invest $15 million in a new “digital village” initiative in three underserved communities, including East Palo Alto.

• Qualcomm will commit $25 million to bridge the digital divide in San Diego, where it is based.

Gateway’s Teach America! program

http://www.gateway.com/teachamerica

Microsoft Corp.

http://www.microsoft.com

Novell Inc.

http://www.novell.com

Hewlett-Packard Co.

http://www.hp.com

Qualcomm Inc.

http://www.qualcomm.com