Peace Corps Director to Help Launch Digital Freedom Initiative

March 4, 2003

Senegal Pilot Partnership Seeks to Grow Free Markets
Through Volunteers and Technology


WASHINGTON, D.C., March 4, 2003 – Today at the White House, Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez joined U.S. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios, and USA Freedom Corps Director John Bridgeland in announcing the beginning of a pilot project that represents a bold and innovative approach toward global economic growth and poverty reduction. Dubbed the Digital Freedom Initiative (DFI), the private-public partnership seeks to leverage the leadership of the U.S. government and the capabilities and ingenuity of America’s leading private sector companies to sustain free markets and create jobs.

The Digital Freedom Initiative, led by Secretary Evans and USAID Administrator Natsios, will aggressively pursue a public-private sector approach to finding the best information communications technology (ICT) solutions to promote economic growth and reduce poverty in recipient developing countries. The pilot project will start in Senegal, one of the first sub-Saharan African countries to make significant investments in technology.

“Given our past experience in the field of grassroots development, we are delighted to bring Peace Corps’ expertise in preparing volunteers to live and work effectively in other cultures and to partner with the Department of Commerce and USAID,” said Vasquez

The DFI will focus on 4 key areas: promoting productivity and business process innovation, creating a financial infrastructure for entrepreneurs, building a foundation of growth and ownership, and developing a framework for policy and regulatory reform.

DFI’s goal is to help create and sustain free markets in up to 20 developing countries over five years by placing volunteers from the private sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working with small businesses to initiate an entrepreneurial spirit capable of bringing economic opportunities to America’s allies in the developing world. A DFI Leadership Roundtable made up of small and medium-sized businesses, corporations, NGOs, academic institutions will be established to focus private sector input and guidance.

Peace Corps has had a long history of information and communication technology-based projects. Currently, 1,559 Peace Corps volunteers are actively promoting the use of information and communication technology in their work. In 2002 alone, 31,073 host-country counterparts and project participants directly benefited from Peace Corps volunteers’information and communication technology activities.

For more information on the participants of this project, please check out the following Web sites: www.usaid.gov, www.commerce.gov, and www.usafreedomcorps.gov.

Since 1961, more than 168,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and awareness, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment.

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