Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Funds University of Washington Digital Tribal Outreach Project

The Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $393,435 grant to the Tribal Connections project co-sponsored by the University of Washington Regional Medical Library and the National Library of Medicine. The collaboration will open access to electronic health information resources for Southwest Native American tribes.

Through the foundation's Native American Access to Technology project, over 100 American Indian communities in the Southwestern United States are being supplied with computers, software, and technical support. The grant will combine the health information outreach of Tribal Connections with the technology infrastructure provided by the foundation in an effort to help bridge the digital divide in the communities affected.

According to recent data from the Indian Health Service, Native Americans experience higher rates of illness and death than other races. Foundation officials also note that digital divide issues hold tribal members back both economically and socially. The collaboration between the foundation and the university's Regional Medical Library is an attempt to build on the strengths of each and directly address the digital divide in Indian country.