UT, KORRNet Help Homebound Use Internet

KNOXVILLE — A University of Tennessee-sponsored project has won international recognition for helping people confined to their home use the Internet.

Project CHIPS (Computers for Homebound and Isolated Persons) won the Equal Access category of the Stockholm Challenge 2000 Award June 6 in Sweden.

CHIPS is a program of the Knoxville Oak Ridge Regional Network (KORRnet), a regional computer network based at UT.

Natalie Bradley, project director for CHIPS, said the program has provided computers, Internet connections, email and other services to 45 homebound residents in 16 East Tennessee counties. Most are disabled, sick, elderly or caregivers, she said.

Bradley said special computers, software and training are given to those who are disabled and unable to operate standard computers. The program increases their community ties and decreases their sense of isolation, she said.

“For ill, disabled or full-time caregivers who cannot leave home, the rest of the world can seem far away,” Bradley said. “This project is making a real difference.”

Greg Cole, director of UT’s Center for International Network Initiatives and a contributor to CHIPS, said the program is being copied in other parts of the world.

“We are working on projects based on the CHIPS idea, and we are introducing them to Russian communities,” Cole said. “As a result of this award, more communities outside of this country will be aware of this idea and will make it work in their own communities.”

The Stockholm Challenge Award, a non-profit initiative of the city of Stockholm and the European Commission, showcases and recognizes innovative uses of information technology to help society.

KORRnet is housed in UT’s Office of Academic and Research Services and is supported by UT Network Services. The cities of Knoxville and Oak Ridge, Knox County and the Knoxville News-Sentinel are sponsors of the nonprofit computer network.