Houston Offers Free E-Mail as Digital Divide Bridge
The city of Houston last month launched an initiative to offer free e-mail and use of personal computer software to its three million area residents. Individuals who verify their residence in the city will get an account number to access a software package developed by Houston-based Internet Access Technologies (IAT) company, including word processing and e-mail.
The program is intended to encourage Internet use among minorities, the poor and people in rural areas, according to city officials.
Residents, who don’t own computers, can access the word processing program and e-mail accounts at any one of 1,000 personal computers housed in the city’s public libraries, and fire and police stations. Houston residents who own PCs also can access the software if they have an Internet service provider. “We saw an opportunity in the information age to bridge the digital divide by making computers accessible to every Houstonian,” Mayor Lee Brown, told USA Today. “It’s crucial to have e-mail and electronic résumés.”
The city of Houston and IAT expect to have a three-year, multimillion-dollar deal to execute the project, officials say. IAT hopes to strike similar deals in up to 12 cities, including Chicago and Indianapolis. In future deals, IAT might team with Internet service providers such as AOL Time Warner or EarthLink.
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