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.
OK, so I was wrong... The State Department does indeed have a bicycle
rack. It's in the parking garage and available to all staff. I
apologize to my government for suggesting that it was not biker
friendly. Indeed, they've given me access to a nice bike rack,
sheltered, and surrounded by the latest technological security
equipment as well as armed guards. I feel my bicycle will be very
Fortunately, my bicycle was not molested while chained to the
no-parking sign outside (someone asked about that...). For the
April 3 forum on the Leland Initiative, I'll park in the garage.
USAID on the Information Highway
This session was chaired by Joan Dudik-Gayoso, who introduced the
topic by noting that if USAID is to promote the Internet around the
world, the Agency itself must use it and other such tools in its
work. This session is about how the Agency is using these tools.
Jim Russo, Project Manager, Internet Data Service, Information
Resource Management at USAID, spoke first, and used a large
television monitor that was linked to a laptop computer. He used
Lotus Screencam to walk us through the various resources available
via the USAID public and private WWW sites.
Jim noted that USAID uses the Internet, which is directly available
at 44 of its largest missions around the world, to bring to the
desktops of its researchers the world's leading university research
25,000 people visit the USAID home page every month. The
International Development page is the most popular. Many visit the
USAID site to learn about business and procurement.
Also on the AID site is a map of the 50 states, showing what USAID
spends in each of them. USAID is in a "dogfight" to defend its
existence before Congress, and uses its WWW site to show Congress
one aspect of how USAID serves the interests of the USA.
Q. On the USAID International Development page, what types of
organizations are listed?
A. Non-profits. Not sure, but thinks this is a government rule that
prohibits the government from promoting particular for-profit
[This ended Jim Russo's presentation.]
Darrel Owen, Acting Director, Software Development and Maintenance
Division, Information Resource Management, USAID, spoke next.
We use Internet technologies, having invested some $40 to $50 million
dollars in new equipment, to help us improve our own information
systems in areas like procurement and accounting. We use it to track
our results. We use Basis-Plus and Oracle with WWW interfaces to
manage visual and narrative information. We are particularly excited
about using these technologies within our organization on the private
From our experience installing equipment in Africa, we know that it
costs about $60,000 plus $3,000 per month to set up a VSAT system.
Technology is not the problem. Policy is the problem.
[This ended Mr. Owen's presentation.]
Raghu Kacker, Commerce Science and Technology Fellow, Science
Technology and Communications Unit, Bureau for Global Programs, Field
Support and Research, USAID, spoke next. He spoke mostly about
DevNet-L, an unmoderated online discussion conference at USAID. A
questioner noted that the WWW is one-sided, whereas electronic mail
tools like DevNet-L are interactive. Raghu added that electronic
mail technologies are also quite inexpensive.
[This ended Raghu Kacker's presentation. He spoke at length. It is
my notes that are short. This also concluded this portion of the
[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 quotations.]
AfricaLink -- http://www.info.usaid.gov/alnk