"Because it reconnects Kosovo to the rest of the world, Internet access is a critical milestone in the rebuilding process," said the IRC's Paul Meyer, the project leader, who nursed the effort through to completion since conceiving the idea last June.
Internet access is being provided initially to the University of Pristina, the National Library, local news media and Pristina Hospital and to 14 UN and international humanitarian agencies in the capital.
"For a humanitarian agency like the IRC that has several hundred staff members in Kosovo, the project means reliable, fast, inexpensive communications and savings of thousands of dollars a month in international phone bills," Meyer said. "For the university and other local organizations, it means instant access to information and it puts them in touch with the rest of the world."
The UN and private relief agencies are sharing costs of the Kosovo Internet Project, while local institutions are receiving service free. In the coming weeks, additional institutions such as schools and local nongovernmental agencies will be connected at no charge.
After a start-up period of six months or so, the IRC plans to give control of the project to a local revenue-generating, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing wide access to the Internet in Kosovo.
Reynold Levy, president of the International Rescue Committee, said, "This project will serve the immediate needs of local and international agencies, while providing Kosovo with a permanent Internet infrastructure."
The Kosovo Internet Project's Web site < http://www.ipko.org/> offers more information.