Internet centers set up for Kosovo refugees

The U.S. Information Agency, together with other federal agencies and international organizations, is setting up Internet-based information centers for Kosovar refugees at refugee camps in Poland, France, Germany, the Balkans and Fort Dix, N.J.

The centers will provide Albanian-language news reports and other information from USIA's radio services, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, as well as the agency's WorldNet satellite television system. In addition, refugees will have Internet and e-mail access. The first center will open May 7 at a site between two refugee camps in Skopje, Macedonia.

Fifteen companies, including Silicon Graphics Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Xerox Corp., Gateway Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Apple Computer Inc., plan to donate $500,000 worth of computer and networking equipment, software and support services to the effort, called the Kosovar Refugee Internet Assistance Initiative. International Data Group, FCW's parent company, also is involved in the effort.

A USIA spokeswoman, Kelly Lees, said that although meeting the refugees' needs for shelter, food and medical care "is the top priority," the Kosovars are "starving for information in their native languages and the ability to communicate with their loved ones when they don't know where they are." She said the information centers would provide the "tools they need to virtually rebuild and reunite their communities and their families in maybe the smallest of steps."

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