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Opening Remarks of Assistant Secretary Victory at the Technology Opportunities Program's Networks for People Conference

December 06, 2001

Speech by Nancy J. Victory
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information
U. S. Department of Commerce

before the

TOP Networks for People Conference
December 6, 2001

Good Morning. I am very pleased to be here to announce the opening of the next Technology Opportunities Program grant round and to meet this year's winners. As you'll hear later, we have approximately $12.5 million to award in new TOP grants next September and we're looking forward to receiving and reviewing a new round of grant applications this March.

My first exposure to TOP came this summer, shortly after I took office as NTIA's new Assistant Secretary, when I was asked to approve 74 new TOP grants. As it turned out, approving the 74 winners was a fairly easy task - it was turning down the other 591 applicants that was tough!

In reviewing the proposed grants I was struck by the many innovative and creative applications of technology designed to improve the quality of life. While each project focuses on very specific challenges in its own community, at the same time the projects are universal in the sense that the solutions they develop can be used in other communities.

For example, what we learn this year about telemedicine in the Mississippi Delta can help children everywhere get access to medical specialists. The lessons learned by the Iowa Senior Citizens Internet Access Network will help seniors everywhere maintain their independence and enrich their lives. And the Maine Memory Network will help museums and small-town historical societies across the country use technology to gather and share the rich cultural history of their states.

I would like to recognize and congratulate the 74 organizations that received TOP grants this year. Please stand for a round of applause. We're expecting great things from you!

In considering the grant winners, one of the things I was most impressed with was the emphasis on problem solving and results. Because all TOP grants are matched by local funds, we're making investments in projects. Like any investor, we want to see a return on those investments. We want to see that investments in technology and in people lead to improvements in communities such as a better trained workforce, greater access to health care, safer streets, and/or more effective government services. This afternoon you will hear from our past grantees about some terrific results that they are achieving in their communities.

We in the Administration see all of you as our partners in pursuing the common goal of realizing the potential of telecommunications and information technology to better the lives of all Americans. We in government have a role to play in terms of making policies that help facilitate the deployment of new technologies and you, as the practitioners, have an important role in transforming the possibilities offered by the technologies into real-life benefits.

The Administration views new technologies and the deployment of high-speed networks as crucial to promoting America's economic growth and our nation's social well-being. We've been working to develop policies that will facilitate the rollout of new services such as broadband. To that end, I'd like you to know about our Request For Comments on broadband and advanced telecommunications services. It's available on the NTIA web site and I encourage all of you to take a look and offer your comments. Many of your experiences may give you unique insight into some of the questions we ask, particularly about access and demand. The deadline for comments is December 19th.

Well, that's one example of how we're working on the policies for new technologies. We're looking to you to come up with the beneficial ways to make these technologies work for America. During the next grant round we will be looking for applications with strong potential to teach other non-profit and public sector groups to seize the opportunities presented by new technologies. We depend on your enthusiasm, your energy, and your creativity in formulating terrific TOP projects. While we in the Administration will be working to remove any policy roadblocks so that new technologies and telecommunications services can be made available to you, we're counting on you to show us what you can do with them. TOP serves as a testing ground where telecommunications policy meets practice, where promise often struggles with reality. In selecting our 2002 grantees, we'll be looking for the best practices in applying telecommunications and information technology. 

I want to close by once again congratulating the new TOP grantees and cheering on all of you who are working to bring the benefits of new technologies to underserved communities. The impact of your work is being felt around the country. You are helping people own their own homes, take care of their elders, get and keep jobs, and improve their communities. You are helping the nation learn how to apply these exciting new technologies to meet society's greatest challenges.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the conference!