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U.S. Department of State

Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Communications and Information Policy

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Presidential Internet
For Economic Development Initiative

Source:   U.S. Government Working Group On Electronic Commerce, Second Annual Report
Dated:  December 17, 1999

I direct the Secretary of State, in appropriate cooperation with the Agency for International Development, the Secretary of Commerce, the Federal Communications Commission, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and other relevant agencies, to initiate a program to help accelerate the spread of the Internet and electronic commerce to developing countries.     [ 11/30/98:  Presidential Directive]

In response to the Presidential directive to close the international digital divide, the Internet for Economic Development (IED) initiative was launched by the Vice President in 1999 to spread the Internet and electronic commerce to developing countries. This initiative, which is coordinated by the Office of International Communications Policy (EB/CIP/BA), of the Department of State, seeks to empower developing countries to use the Internet to energize their economies, gain access to knowledge that can improve standards of living, and foster the free flow of ideas.

The four major goals of this initiative are:

1. Encouraging the creation of a pro-competitive policy and regulatory environment where the Internet and e-commerce can flourish.

2. Spurring the deployment of advanced information infrastructure to remote and urban areas through collaboration with multilateral organizations, NGOs and the private sector.

3. Providing education and training to local entrepreneurs, knowledge workers, policy makers and regulators.

4. Fostering the use of specific Internet applications such as micro-e-commerce, telemedicine, distance education, and improved access to government services.

The initiative has begun work in an initial group of 11 countries which the Vice President announced in June. Those countries are Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Bulgaria, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, Guinea, Uganda, South Africa and Mozambique. The Administration hopes other developing countries will join the program in the future.

The Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Commerce Department, the Federal Commmunication Commission (CCC) and other government agencies are working with host governments, multilateral organizations, and the private sector to implement specific projects that respond to the country's specific needs. Examples of some of the achievements include:

  • Guinea became the first country in Africa to extend high speed Internet access to its secondary cities, through high speed satellite dishes and emerging wireless technology provided by the USAID Leland Initiative. USAID microcredit programs are now using this technology to extend and track small enterprise loans to several thousand Guinean women who benefit from the program to earn additional money for their households.

  • In Mozambique, USAID is working closely with private Internet Service Providers to establish high-speed satellite dishes in four key secondary towns. These dishes will serve as portals to the information world for Mozambican businesses, educators, community and women's groups and school children

  • In Uganda, USAID in collaboration with the World Bank and Schools-online, has begun to install computer labs, Internet access, and teacher training in up to 100 schools and teacher training institutes that will reach more than 7,000 students a year. USAID also is providing computers, Internet connectivity and training to link a Kampala-based organization of professional women with the Association of Women organization in northern Uganda to facilitate information sharing on health, business development, and education issues. Meanwhile, the FCC is running a joint training program with the Uganda Communication Commission.

  • In South Africa, an Emergency Medicine training partnership between Howard University Medical School and the University of Transkei hospital will soon migrate from mailed videocassettes to an Internet training platform, using equipment provided by USAID. This will help to increase the amount of training and the quality of care for the Transkei Hospital, a facility that serves 45,000 emergency room trauma patients each year.

  • In Ghana, a Peace Corps volunteer in northwest Ghana established a computer training and support center that helped an association of women artisans establish a website through collaboration with PeopleLink. USAID is joining the World Bank, Schools-online and the GLOBE program to link up schools; and is using the Internet to train local government officials and to begin linking the field offices of the Electoral Commission.

  • In Bulgaria, the Global Technology Corps (GTC) sponsored an October 1999 visit to Sofia by a U.S. telecommunications expert who volunteered to advise the Bulgarian Internet Alliance for Economic Development (IAED), the main telecommunications policy-making body in Bulgaria. The GTC is a State Department initiative established in August 1999 to send high tech volunteers to assist with projects identified by U.S. embassies. The Bulgaria visit was so successful that the American volunteer subsequently accepted an invitation to join the IAED Steering Committee, and continues to advise and assist the IAED.

  • In Haiti, Peace Corps volunteers plan to teach IT skills using an "Information Technology Training-of-Trainers" module that was field-tested in Ghana and Thailand in September 1999. USAID is launching a program to expand Internet access in secondary cities and rural areas and to provide training in electronic commerce, spectrum management and telecommunications regulation.

  • In Jamaica, USAID is assisting the government in drafting bid documents necessary to allow for two additional cellular companies to operate in Jamaica, providing competition to the current monopoly. USAID also will assist in redrafting Jamaica's Telecommunications Act, developing a new regulatory framework, training of key individuals, and spectrum management.

  • In Guatemala, the U.S. Embassy proposes to facilitate establishment of an Internet-based marketing facility for an indigenous cooperative producing handicrafts. Under the auspices of the GTC, volunteers from a private consulting firm recently completed a business feasibility study. Efforts are now underway to develop a final business plan and to launch business operations.

  • In Morocco, USAID is supporting the development and use of in-service computer-based training for teachers.

  • In Egypt, the U.S. Embassy is running workshops on processing online payments to help expand the use of e-commerce.

  • The U.S. Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI), an institution whose board of directors includes the FCC and the Departments of State and Commerce, is actively supporting the IED initiative. In August 1999, representatives from Bulgaria, Ghana, Guatemala, Jamaica and Uganda participated in USTTI training in Internet technologies. In December 1999, USTTI included participants from all eleven IED countries attended an e-commerce seminar for developing countries.

African student in front of a computer

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