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High-Tech 101 for Congress

In all the debate over the antiobscenity rider, opponents of the Senate bill are pitching high-tech solutions to filter out obscene and sexually explicit materials--instead of censoring content after the fact.

While those suggestions have fallen on deaf ears in the Senate, a new Washington-based technology center called Highway 1 is working to educate politicians about technology by giving them hands-on experience. The center is sponsored by such high-tech heavyweights as IBM, Apple Computer, and AT&T.

"One of our biggest missions is to educate members [of Congress]. The more hands-on experience they have, the better. There are too many members who don't have any experience,'' says Kimberly Jenkins, executive director for Highway 1.

Enlightening congressional members about technology will result in better legislation and make government officials more aware of high-tech benefits, adds Jenkins.

Highway 1 is a nonpartisan effort aimed at fostering? better communication between citizens and government. The center is divided into three main areas: basic office system technologies, advanced technologies, and emerging technologies. An in-house staff demonstrates these technologies and answers questions. Another Highway 1 goal is to provide public Internet access that enables voters and politicians to communicate effectively. Beginning in 1996, the center will pilot a public access project to place online systems in libraries, schools, and community centers in urban and rural areas. Plans for the project will be set next month, says Jenkins. "If [Highway 1] is about democracy, it can't be about one-way communication. We have to give people access to officials,'' adds Jenkins.