US Agency for International Development

James Russo
Director Internet Data Services Group
US Agency for International Development

I represent the US Agency for International Development, we are a US governmental agency, and all US foreign Aid goes through our agency. We are a political agency and if you send proposals to our agency there are some words that you need to know. Because any project that you send for support has to meet several criteria.

The first one is sustainable development. We only fund projects that have a real chance of becoming self-sufficient at some point, 3 years, 4 years. If a project is not able to become self-sufficient, then we will not fund that project.

We have four categories under which our projects must fall:

At this time we are not funding infrastructure and generally we are not putting resources into telecom. I'll give you a few examples of what we are doing. We have a project on private sector initiatives in Central and Eastern Europe and the FSU. This project involves: telecommunication, policy reform, and activities involving the organization of telecommunication seminars on basic telecommunication legislation and regulatory issues.

We have another project called Democratic Pluralism Initiative. We fund this project to establish independent television and radio stations within the area. We have a global initiative called "Short-term training and Telecommunications and Broadcasting." By global, I mean we're funding projects around the world including short-term training on telecommunications and broadcasting.

Recently, we have been considering funding a small project in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, which will involve IREX and Eurasia Foundation in setting up an Internet connection in Bishkek and providing training and support for non technical organizations in using Internet and telecommunication.

There currently is a policy debate within the Agency to decide to what level we want to get involved in telecommunication. Whether we should directly fund infrastructure development of mass media and telecommunication. It is not clear at this point whether we will do that. So I can't tell you one way or the other.
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