President Clinton on Saturday directed the federal government to play a bigger role in using the Internet to help children learn.
As he and Vice President Al Gore marked the second annual “Net Day” by using a personal computer to talk to youngsters in Los Angeles and Hartford, the White House released a memorandum from Clinton giving all federal departments and agencies three months to determine what added resources they should provide to “enrich the Internet as a tool for teaching and learning.”
The agencies are then expected to make the new services available within six months.
The president’s directive is the latest step in his drive to link every U.S. schoolroom to the worldwide computer network by 2000. To date, an estimated 65 percent of the nation’s schools have access to the Internet, and 14 percent of the classroom are linked.
Saturday, volunteers were said to be working in 40 states and the District of Columbia.
In his weekly radio address, Clinton hailed the Net Day volunteers and likened their efforts to “an old-fashioned barn raising (when) neighbor joins with neighbor to do something for the good of the entire community.”
Clinton also used his speech to pressure the Federal Communications Commission to approve discounts of about $2 billion to schools and libraries for Internet connections. He said the discounts would be critical in some communities.
“Now, more than ever, we cannot afford for our children to be priced out of cyberspace,” the president said, noting the FCC is to vote on the proposal on May 6.
Gore announced the administration was giving $11.8 million in “technology literacy grants” to buy computers and train teachers in seven states and two territories. The administration previously has committed $57 million.