A Computer for Every Fed

WASHINGTON (04/10/2000) - The most recent effort to put a computer in nearly every federal worker's hands will happen today.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, plans to introduce the Federal Workforce Digital Access Act, which would provide a free computer and Internet access to up to 1.8 million federal employees who complete at least one year of service.

The bill reflects similar initiatives planned by the Navy and the Army, and initiatives launched earlier this year by Ford Motor Co., Intel Corp. and Delta Air Lines.

The bill was designed to keep the federal work force on the cutting edge of the information revolution.

"One of the things I realized after I got here is that anyone who was not competent with regard to computers and the Internet couldn't get a job in my office," said Cummings, the ranking minority member on the Government Reform Committee's Civil Service subcommittee. "So many transactions are taking place with computers, and it was very clear to me that we must have a work force that is keeping up with the rest of society."

In general, information technology experts say, giving federal employees a personal laptop has merit. The program would make the government a model employer and prepare the work force to deliver services electronically.

However, important details such as funding, technical support, information security and the question of ownership would need to be resolved if the program has any chance of succeeding.

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