Making a Powerful Connection: the Health of the Public and the National Information Infrastructure. 7.1 Broad-based Federal NII Grant Programs


The bulk of federal funding for the NII initiative and its underlying HPCC technology has been through broad-based programs, not specifically targeted at health applications. Some of these programs, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Advanced Technology Program, are not particularly well suited for public health because they are either targeted at for-profit businesses or are intended to promote the development of high-risk technologies. But even when there is a close fit between public health applications and an NII or HPCC program, public health participation to date has been quite variable. For example, of the more than 100 applications received by the NLM in 1993 in response to its Broad Agency Announcement for Proposals for health-related applications of HPCC technology, none came from public health departments and only a few addressed issues related to population-based health. Of the 31 Distance Learning and Medical Link awards granted by the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) about which we have specific information, five have some public health component. Of the 92 projects funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) in 1994 to assist non-profit organizations in improving access to the Internet, six were awarded to public health departments, which is consistent with the small number of applications received from the public health sector. These six projects -- from the Health Department of Oklahoma City/County, the Governor's office and Department of Health in Pennsylvania, the Division of Public Health in Georgia, the Michigan Association for Local Public Health, the Saint Louis University School of Public Health, and the Health Sciences Division of Columbia University -- received substantial financial support. In fact, the partners in the Georgia Information Network for Public Health Officials (INPHO) project received the fifth highest grant award ($660,000) out of 92 NTIA projects funded.