With the help of the tech industry, U.S. President Barack Obama is promoting an initiative to equip schools with advanced technology, as mentioned in last week’s State of the Union address.
Speaking at a Maryland middle school, Obama announced Tuesday that private-sector tech companies would pledge more $750 million in computers, tablets, software, Internet access, cash and other support. Obama previously said he wanted to “harnesses the ingenuity of the American private sector” when he launched his ConnectED education-technology campaign last June.
“We picked up the phone, and we started asking some outstanding business leaders to help bring our schools and libraries into the 21st century,” Obama said Tuesday. “Technology can help; it’s a tool.”
Specifically, Apple is contributing iPads, MacBooks and other products; AT&T and Sprint will provide Internet access; Autodesk and O’Reilly Media will provide software; Microsoft will “deeply” discount the price of its Windows operating system for all public schools, and provide millions of free copies of its Office software; and Verizon will provide cash and technical support. Several of the companies targeted their donations at low-income schools.
The overarching goal of Obama’s campaign is to bring high-speed Internet access to 99% of schools within five years. Currently, less than 30% of schools have broadband, according to a White House email.
“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools,” Obama said.
In his State of the Union address, Obama said the federal government, through the Federal Communications Commission, would make a $2 billion “down payment” to the ConnectEd goal; the FCC will provide 15,000 schools and 20 million students with high-speed broadband over the next two years. The payment won’t require approval from Congress, and “won’t add a dime to the deficit,” Obama said Tuesday.
During his speech at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Md., Obama also said the government may seek more private-sector contributions.
“I’m going to ask every business leader across the country to join this effort,” he said. “We can make this happen.”
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