December 3, 1996 6:15 PM ET

National Infrastructure Award winners named
By Margaret Kane

  NEW YORK--A nurse visiting patients in upper Manhattan inputs information into a pen-based computer and sends it via a wireless CDPD network to a central server. The data is read by a computer that makes a diagnosis of tuberculosis and informs the patient's doctor, hospitals and the New York City Department of Health.

This pilot program, run by Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and the New York City Department of Health, was one of 10 projects honored at the National Information Infrastructure Awards here today. The awards, sponsored by corporations (including IBM, Netscape Communications Corp. and AT&T Corp.), public organizations and the U.S. government, recognized programs that have taken information "to the second generation."

"When you add up all the pieces here, it's not hard to imagine a world that works better than the one we have today," said James Hake, chairman of the awards.

The Columbia-Presbyterian program, which was a winner in the Health category, equipped nurses with Fujitsu Personal Systems Inc. Stylistic 1000 pen-based systems and installed kiosks in clinics with touch-screens that let patients access data about tuberculosis in English and Spanish. A World Wide Web site was set up to give doctors information as well.

Most of the NII projects centered on the Internet, something that another winner, the National Science Foundation, is very familiar with.

As one of the agencies that originally sponsored the creation of the Internet, the NSF seemed a natural for using the global network to eliminate paperwork. Its FastLane Project allows universities and businesses applying for grants (and college students applying for fellowships) to request information, fill out applications, monitor their status and receive funding--all electronically.

"What we've done is taken all of the NSF interactions and provided automated alternatives," said Frederic Wendling, director of the Information Systems Division at the NSF.

Of the $3 billion given out annually by the NSF, $1 billion is awarded through the FastLane project. Fifteen hundred of the 4,000 applications for graduate student fellowships were submitted over the Internet this year.

While the NSF and Columbia-Presbyterian projects involved scientists and researchers, other projects focused on average users.

The CitySpace Project, which won the Arts and Entertainment award, allows groups of young people to create a virtual world, rendered in three dimensions, where they can interact using avatars (or "puppets," as the project calls them).

"People want to socialize. That's why chat rooms are so successful," said Zane Vella, director of CitySpace.

Most of the areas on the space were created by young people working through programs run by museums and educational institutions.

Vella hopes that more virtual worlds will spring up.

"We see CitySpace as a park on the Internet, a public space," he said. "People need some place where they can bump into one another."

Other award winners included the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition for Business; Faces of Adoption, a computerized photo listing of children who await adoptive homes, in the Children category; Charlotte's Web, a regional communications network that encourages people to use electronics to engage in civic life, in the Community category; the Jason VII Project Undersea Internet Site for Education; and the StarBright World, a "virtual playspace" for seriously ill children, in the Next Generation category. epa.net, a community networking project, captured the NII Public Access Award, while the NII Telecollaboration Award went to Electronic Café International.

More information about the awards is available at www.gii-awards.com.

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