On Tuesday March 26 a workshop was held at USAID headquarters in the
State Department building in Washington, DC USA. I took a few notes.
These notes are not complete, and represent only what was of
interest to me personally. These are not official notes, and should
not be considered an official record of the proceedings.
Bob Siegel is Senior Economist, Bureau for Program and Policy
Coordination, USAID. He spoke on Information and Communications
Technology Policy. Bob described himself as an economist with USAID
for 6 years, previously with NOAA (I think that's the National
Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration of the US Government).
Bob called everyone's attention to a document, included in the
conference packet given to all in attendance, entitled "USAID Policy
Determination: 22, Chapter 215: Telecommunications, Information, and
the Global Information Infrastructure."
Reiterating what was said earlier, Bob noted that one goal is
universal access, irrespective of income. But consider: 64% of US
homes have no computer, so what does universal access mean even in
the USA? How do we define our terms in the context of other
First we define the physical infrastructure. Then the social
infrastructure -- e.g. laws. Then we pose questions: who can have
access? At what cost? Will there be competition? Will property
rights be protected?
Given that there are so many "project entrepreneurs" within USAID, it
is not ingenuity that will constrain us, but rather budgets. What
projects will we support to promote an enabling environment for the
Global Information Infrastructure? USAID is not going to "wire" the
world. We will not undertake telecommunications projects for the
sake of the projects themselves. They must be part of a broader
endeavor. We will not necessarily fund basic infrastructure.
[Questions were then taken from the floor]
Q. Will policy be to load information systems with American values,
e.g. will we enable systems but only load them with some newsgroups
and not others, or is our goal simply to sell American machines?
A. It is not our policy to force American values on others.
A. (from Joan Dudik-Gayoso, host) "Universal Access" is one of our
Q. Gary Garriott of VITA: In Central America, government monopolies
are being replaced by what are becoming private monopolies, forcing
out smaller email providers. Is the promotion of competition an
active part of USAID policy? If so, what can NGOs do to help?
A. Each USAID Mission has a sustainable development objective. You
can work with a local country Mission to overcome this problem if you
perceive it to exist in a country.
A. (host) The State Department is involved in this matter as well.
A. As is the US Trade Representative.
A. (host) Do obtain from us a copy of the Policy Determination
annexes, which go into more details.
[This concluded Mr. Nelson's presentation. My notes are scanty, and
I would appreciate any corrections or additions from anyone else who
was in attendance. Apologies in advance if I've inadvertantly
misrepresented anyone's statements. These are paraphrases, not
AfricaLink -- http://www.info.usaid.gov/alnk