Speak Your Mind Online to the Federal Government

For two weeks in May, Fairbanksans can join the rest of the nation by speaking their minds online to the federal government about a variety of topics ranging from food stamps and social security benefits to obtaining small business grants.

The meeting is scheduled to be conducted from Monday (May 1) through Sunday (May 14) on personal computers and at "Public Access Sites" around the country on the computerized Information Highway.

Interior Alaskan residents who would like to express concerns to federal officials during this first-ever National Electronic Open Meeting, but who do not have computer access to the meeting, can do so free-of-charge at a Public Access Site within the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays during the two-week public comment period a visualization lab run by the UAF Arctic Region Supercomputing Center located in the Geophysical Institute will be staffed with computers and volunteers to help people unfamiliar with working on the Internet and the World Wide Web. Volunteers also will help type messages to federal officials from people unaccustomed to working on computer keyboards.

At 4 p.m. weekdays during this two-week period, hour-long presentations will be given to demonstrate how to obtain access to government data bases. The status and the exact wording of bills currently being considered in the state legislature in Juneau can be accessed through such data bases, as can information within the Federal Register and the Library of Congress.

According to a press release issued by federal officials on the Internet, the nationwide two-week public comment period has been set up to spur vigorous debate and public discussion on how the government can improve delivery of services and benefits and increase public access to federal information.

The two-week forum will be conducted over e-mail in a series of five discussion groups. Each group will be devoted to a specific topic relating to "People and their Governments in the Information Age," and will be hosted by one or more experts who will participate in an online discussion.

The open meeting will focus on five topics: services (from emergency help and health care to business licenses); benefits (from social security and food stamps to small business grants); information (from declassified secrets and travel aids to satellite weather maps); participatory democracy (ensuring everyone's chance to be heard); and technology (how the technical portion of electronic government will work).

For more information, call Kathy Berry with the Geophysical Institute at 474-7558, or Eric Muehling with the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center at 474-5149.

Back to Top