FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: See below
USIA Leads Public/Private Partnership
Washington, D.C. — The U. S. Information Agency's Information Bureau announced today the establishment of the Kosovar Refugee Internet Assistance Initiative, a public/private partnership helping to address the information and humanitarian needs of Kosovar refugees. The project links government agencies (the National Security Council, the National Economic Council, USAID, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State), the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe, technology companies, and foundations in a coordinated effort to bring refugee communities more than US$500,000 of donated technology. USIA also is working to establish Internet-based interactive information centers at refugee sites in the Balkans and at other refugee centers. Once in place, these centers will utilize innovative information technologies to:
increase refugee access to independent, objective news and information via the world wide web and through a daily Albanian-language newsletter that will be published in information centers;
provide hardware, software, and technical support to international humanitarian relief organizations working on the humanitarian evacuation effort; and
facilitate communication via the Internet.
"Meeting the pressing and real information needs of the refugees is a critical task. We are doing so in partnership with innovative technology companies, non-governmental organizations, and foundations by harnessing the powerful new tools of the information age," said Jonathan Spalter, USIA Associate Director for Information and Chief Information Officer.
This multi-pronged assistance effort begins with a pilot project in Skopje, Macedonia. Donated equipment will begin operating at a temporary facility between the two refugee camps near Skopje on Friday, May 7 at 4:00 pm. Press wishing to cover this should contact USIS Skopje (011-38991116-623) for directions to the pilot project site.
An Internet news center will be established to offer refugees access to Albanian-language news and information via the World Wide Web, with USIA's Kosovo web site as the primary content source for a daily newsletter that will be distributed to refugees.
The organizations taking the lead in this partnership include Gateway and the Waitt Family Foundation, Cisco Systems, Inc., SGI, The Document Company Xerox, RISO, Inc., MVS USA, Hewlett-Packard Company, International Data Group, the National Technology Alliance, 3M, the David Sarnoff Corporation, Autometric, Inc., Apple Computer, Inc., and the Markle Foundation. In addition to supporting the refugee information centers, these organizations also are delivering the hardware, software, connectivity, and technical support to augment the emergency work already underway in Skopje, Macedonia.
"Bringing modern technology to the aid of the refugees of Kosovo through the Refugee Internet Assistance Initiative is one of the great ways that the information technology community can help the relief effort. This public/private partnership is an important step forward in our effort to help alleviate the suffering of the Kosovars," said Gateway Chairman and CEO Ted Waitt.
When the project in Skopje is completed, the donated equipment will be offered as a gift to the people of Macedonia to be used in the schools and for accredited development projects.
Media inquiries should be directed to one of the following individuals:
Kosovo Public Diplomacy Efforts
The following is a list of significant USIA public diplomacy activities on the issue of Kosovar refugees already conducted or presently underway in the region:
Creation of a special Kosovo Web site available in seven languages, including Russian, Serbian, and Albanian;
WORLDNET daily or near-daily feeds to broadcasters in such front-line states as Bosnia, Macedonia, and Albania, regular WORLDNET interactives allowing senior U.S. officials to engage in dialogue with citizens of nations such as Russia, and provision of film footage of Kosovo refugees to overseas broadcasters;
Washington's Foreign Press Center provides Kosovo-related briefings daily by U.S. government and NGO officials for foreign media;
Voice of America radio has established a refugee hotline to help Kosovar Albanian refugees locate family members. Refugees leave recorded messages, which are broadcast into the area;
Coordination of visits by third-country journalists to refugee camps in Macedonia. USIS Skopje is currently providing facilitative assistance to journalists in Macedonia from numerous countries, including Republika Srpska, Ukraine, Estonia, Romania, and Slovakia in an effort to provide a more accurate picture of the humanitarian crisis caused by Serbian actions in Kosovo;
Daily media reaction reports on Kosovo and regular opinion surveys in key European countries to measure attitudes on the Kosovo crisis.
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The United States Information Agency, headed by Acting Director Penn Kemble, is an independent foreign affairs agency within the executive branch that explains and supports U.S. foreign policy and national security interests abroad through a wide range of information programs. The Agency promotes mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through a series of educational and cultural exchange activities.
USIA's programs include the Voice of America, Radio and TV Mart, the WORLDNET satellite television system, the daily Washington File newswire, the Fulbright scholarship program, the International Visitor Program, the Speakers and Specialists Program, three Foreign Press Centers in the United States, and a network of overseas resource and cultural centers. The Agency has 190 posts in 141 countries.
The USIA domestic server can be accessed through http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/usia/ or through most search engines on the Internet.
United States Information Agency, 301 4th Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20547