Image: Opening of WiRED computer facility in Podgorica, capital of Montenegro.
In celebration of our 25th anniversary, WiRED is pleased to bring you stories from our archives. These articles provide a glimpse of WiRED’s early work as they depict the places and the projects we have focused on over the years.
WiRED’s work in the Balkans started in 1997 and picked up pace through the late nineties into the early 2000s. We followed our programs in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo with Internet access facilities in Montenegro, a country of truly stunning natural beauty from the forested mountains to its coast on the Adriatic Sea.
Montenegro was part of the conflict among the former Yugoslavian countries and became involved in the part of Serbia’s war with Croatia around Dubrovnik. Montenegro and Serbia later formed a loose and not entirely amicable federation which ended in 2006, when the countries split, following a European Union monitored referendum.
WiRED’s work, which took place well before the referendum, aimed to provide Internet linked computers in schools to allow students by day and others in the evenings and on weekends to connect with the outside world. The. U.S. Department of State, which funded some of WiRED’s programs in the region, saw Internet communication as a critical tool to address the isolation that had defined much of the region through the nineties, both during and after the war.
The following story briefly describes WiRED’s installation of 90 computers in schools throughout the country. In addition to the U.S. State Department funding, WiRED received significant support for this work from the Medtronic Foundation.
From May 2002
Delivery of User-Ready Web Network to Montenegro Continues WiRED’s Balkans Effort
WiRED announced the delivery on May 30 in Montenegro of 90, Internet-ready computers to be distributed and installed at eight schools in six cities in Montenegro. Montenegro, along with Serbia, comprises the former Yugoslavia. The project was accepted and endorsed by the government of Montenegro and placed under the Ministry of Education.
The installation of the WiRED Internet Access Centers in Montenegro is expected to be completed before the beginning of the Fall school term. The project continues the Balkans regional effort begun in 1997 in Croatia and extended to Bosnia-Herzogovina, Kosovo and Albania during the past two years. The regional network provides Internet Access Centers usually in public schools.
Each Center consists of 10-12 computers and is operated by local teachers and technicians. In addition to use by students, the centers are, by agreement, made available at no charge during non-school hours to local professionals, academics, business persons and average citizens. WiRED provides complete training and follow-up assistance for center managers and participating teachers.
The bottom line is to provide people with the means of obtaining information and communicating beyond their own borders to permit and encourage participation in mainstream economic, social and political life.
According to Dr. Gary Selnow, director of WiRED and a professor at San Francisco State University, “The bottom line is to provide people with the means of obtaining information and communicating beyond their own borders to permit and encourage participation in mainstream economic, social and political life. WiRED’s role is to provide the resources and the operational know-how, then allow the local people to shape the resources to fit their needs.
“Though we’re pleased that the Balkans effort has been successful,” Selnow concluded, “…our work is hardly finished.” The Montenegrin project represents fewer than half the schools in the country. Equipping other centers will require additional funding and we’re working on that now.”
WiRED recently joined with another U.S.-based nonprofit organization, Global Strategies for AIDS Prevention, to establish computer-driven, Health Information Centers with a view toward heightening the dissemination of AIDS prevention information in those countries hardest hit by the disease. More recently, WiRED has made arrangements to establish a test center in Leon, Nicaragua to assist people disabled by land mines and other causes. Depending on the outcome of this test, WiRED has plans to extend the program to other Central American countries.