Peace Corps Director Announces New Initiative; Mark Schneider Outlines Plan for Information Technology

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 7, 2000—During a Peace Corps Day ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston last night, Peace Corps Director Mark Schneider announced a new initiative that will expand the role that Peace Corps volunteers play in bringing the power of information technology to the task of poverty reduction in developing countries.

"Most of our volunteers are comparative experts in information technology, and many of them already are pioneering computer access in some of the poorest communities in the world," Schneider said. "The technology skills of Peace Corps volunteers can, where appropriate, play a significant role in introducing technology to their overseas communities. Our volunteers can serve as advisers, collaborators, and facilitators for their communities and their counterparts."

Through technology, Peace Corps volunteers can help micro-entrepreneurs explore new markets, work with farmers to improve agricultural practices, help local health workers monitor immunization programs for children, and bring the Internet into local classrooms, Schneider said.

"This technology will, in my view, simply give volunteers the green light to innovate, in bridging the digital divide, while remaining true to the core mission that President Kennedy set out for the Peace Corps—to help the people of the developing world help themselves," Schneider said.

Schneider also outlined his plan to expand the Peace Corps\' efforts to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, and to contribute to other international efforts to eradicate polio.

"The spread of AIDS is inflicting a terrible and devastating toll on millions of innocent people and preventing many countries from consolidating their gains in economic and social development. There is no greater humanitarian crisis. There is no greater development obstacle," Schneider said.

Peace Corps Day celebrates March 1, 1961, the day that President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps. On March 7, the third annual Peace Corps Day, nearly 12,000 returned Peace Corps volunteers and educators will speak to an estimated 600,000 students across the country.

Currently, more than 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers are serving in 77 countries, working to bring clean water to communities, teach children, help start new small businesses, and stop the spread of AIDS. Since 1961, more than 155,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps, serving in 134 nations.

Click Here to Read the Director\'s Full Remarks

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