REDMOND, Wash., September 21, 1998 — American Indians are widely considered the U.S. ethnic group least prepared to join the computer age. Besides being the poorest of this country’s minorities, many Indians also are geographically isolated. These factors combine to leave many American Indians as mere onlookers in a technological revolution that could provide them with new job skills and career options.
A diverse partnership between business, higher education and the government is trying to reverse the trend of an increasing digital divide between American Indians and the rest of society. The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) created The American Indian Science Technology Education Consortium (AISTEC) in 1994 with a goal of increasing the numbers of American Indian students who pursue and complete university degrees in math and science. This program creates partnerships among tribal colleges and larger universities to pool know-how and resources.
Dr. Tom Colonnese, assistant vice president for minority affairs at the University of Washington and AISTEC program manager at that school, approached Microsoft about assisting his team in providing high-tech opportunities for the American Indian community and creating technology bases at three tribal colleges. Microsoft saw this as a great opportunity to help create technology access in a community that is in great need. The three tribal colleges—Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, Kan.; Northwest Indian College, Bellingham, Wash.; and Salish-Kootenai Tribal College, Pablo, Mont.,— each will receive $25,000 in cash to create technology programs, as well as additional gifts of at least $500,000 worth of software and training assistance.
“Creating access to technology, especially in disadvantaged communities, is very important to Microsoft,” says Barbara Dingfield, director of community affairs at Microsoft. “This is a terrific program that will add greatly to both the educational environment and the tribal community-at large. We look forward to seeing all the results.”