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Autodesk is a Key Player in Obama's Announcement to Pledge $750 Million for Student Technology
Business leaders have pledged more than $750 million as part of a White House initiative to strengthen access to technology for 99 percent of students within five years, President Obama announced on Tuesday.
Mr. Obama hailed the ConnectED program, which he initiated last summer, as a way to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education as they prepare to compete in the global economy.
“Today the average American school has about the same Internet bandwidth as the average American home, but it serves 200 times as many people,” he said. The kind of 21st-century technology that is needed is available in too few schools, he said.
Technology companies like Verizon and Microsoft have committed to increasing access to high-speed Internet in the classroom, as well as at home; providing software and devices like tablets and laptops; and training teachers to use the new technology.
Several other companies have agreed to join the president’s initiative over the next few years, including Sprint, which has pledged to provide Internet access to 50,000 underprivileged students, and Apple, which has promised to give iPads, MacBooks and other devices worth a total of $100 million to disadvantaged schools.
AT&T will offer more than $100 million to give middle school students free Internet access on their educational devices. Microsoft, among its other commitments, pledged to give 12 million copies of its Office software to schools. Verizon will invest up to $100 million, and Autodesk and O’Reilly Media pledged to make their software available at no cost.
The news comes a day after the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would double its funding to provide and improve high-speed wireless Internet to schools and libraries over the next two years. The additional investment of $2 billion is expected to help 20 million students in at least 15,000 schools.
Fewer than 30 percent of schools are equipped with the broadband connectivity needed to stream video and use other educational tools available on the Internet, Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, told reporters in a conference call on Monday.
Daniel R. Hesse, Sprint’s chief executive, and Judson Althoff, Microsoft’s president of North American sales and marketing, were among the business leaders who joined the president at a Maryland middle school, one of four in Prince George’s County that use iPads in the classroom.
“I’m only standing here today because my education gave me a chance,” Mr. Obama told students in a packed gymnasium. “I’m not so different than a lot of these young people.”
Following up on his State of the Union address last week, Mr. Obama emphasized that this would be a “year of action” with or without Congress, reiterating his promise to use his executive authority and relationships with business leaders to achieve his goals.
“This is something we can do without waiting for Congress,” he said.
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