State and USIA brings Net to war-torn Kosovo

State and USIA brings Net to war-torn Kosovo

Grant funds a communications center filled with donated Macs and PCs and staffed by local techs

By Frank Tiboni
GCN Staff






USIA's Scott Ward, left, and Steve Ward and Signal's Barry Kane helped USIA set up a seven-city network to bring Internet services to Kosovo.


The State Department has taken the Kosovo Refugee Internet Assistance Initiative, which brought interactive information centers to eight refugee camps around Kosovo, back to the war-torn country.

The U.S. Information Agency, now a part of State, gave a $1.57 million grant in humanitarian aid to the International Organization of Migration (IOM) in September to relocate donated PCs and Apple Macintoshes from the initiative to create an Internet cafe-style communications system in seven cities in Kosovo.

'We want to help provide the tools to build a civil society in Kosovo,' said Nancy Ozeas, chief of staff of State's Office of International Information Programs.

The Balkan territory has had no government since NATO's Operation Allied Force bombed Serbian forces in Kosovo and greater Serbia this past spring. The allies and Serbia reached an accord in June under which Serbian forces would leave the region.

Been done before

IOM, which has a history of providing humanitarian relief for State, began opening centers in November. The relief agency set up the PCs and Macs, and hired local staff and technology trainers to run the centers, Ozeas said.

IOM chose the National and University Library in Pristina for the system's headquarters. The system will let Kosovars search for lost relatives and create their own local newspaper, she said.

'We're going to tailor the program to best suit the needs of each community,' Ozeas said.

The initiative, a public-private partnership started in April, addressed the information and humanitarian needs of Kosovo refugees [GCN, May 24, 1999, Page 66]. The refugee camps received:

• 12 333-MHz iMacs connected to an Apple Power G3 server

• 16 400-MHz SGI 320 Visual Workstations powered by two SGI Origin200 servers

• 23 400-MHz Gateway GP6 PCs connected to a Gateway ALR 7200 server

• Two DocuPrint 230C network copy machines from Xerox Corp.

• 1720 routers from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.

• A 3750 digital duplicator from Riso Inc. of Danvers, Mass.

IOM awarded a subcontract in October to Signal Corp. of Fairfax, Va., to help implement and manage the system.

To provide connectivity for the system, Signal chose a very-small-aperture terminal and DirectPC network satellite system from Hughes Network Systems of Germantown, Md.

'We needed those two pieces, because you cannot rely on any local phone lines in Kosovo, especially with winter approaching,' Ozeas said.

For the first time in a post-war period, people will receive 21st century city-to-city linkage via the Internet before a government communicates with itself, said Barry Kane, executive vice president of information technology and engineering services at Signal.

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