Press Release

Contact: Tania Vitvitsky (617) 868-3510

May 16, 1997



The House of Representatives this month voiced its support for continued funding by the United States Information Agency (USIA) of programs devoted to book donation and related Internet and digital information technologies. This is the third consecutive year that the House has noted the value of such programs.

The language approving book donation and related programs is part of the Report on the Foreign Policy Reform Act of the House Committee on International Relations, submitted by its chair, Rep. Benjamin Gilman of New York. Such reports indicate the intent of the legislators in authorizing funding. While decisions to fund particular programs are ultimately made by implementing agencies, in the past USIA has been responsive to such expressions of legislative intent and in 1997 allocated $200,000 for Sabre Foundation book donation programs integrating Internet and electronic technologies.

Since 1986, Sabre, a non-profit organization based in Cambridge, Mass., has sent more than two-and-a-half million books to emerging democracies and countries in transition. In recent years, Sabre programs have increasingly focused on expanding access to Internet and information technologies through, for example, U.S. and overseas training and document delivery projects.

The Report of the 1997 Foreign Policy Reform Act notes, "Such programs managed by private voluntary organizations multiply the benefit of federal dollars with private sector support and assist in opening new markets for U.S. business. They also have the intrinsic value of promoting the free movement of ideas and the growth of knowledge."

USIA Director Joseph Duffey was a leading force in reinstituting funding for book donation programs after they were curtailed as a cost-cutting measure in 1995. Dr. Duffey's approach added two innovations: the requirement of private funds to match federal support and the integration of Internet and related technologies. In Sabre's case, each USIA dollar is matched with one dollar from a private donation, a half dollar in donated services, and $40 in new textbooks. More than 200 U.S. publishers have donated new books from current inventories to Sabre's program.

Thus, USIA's $200,000 grant to Sabre is expected to leverage an $8 million program. Non-governmental funding sources include foundations, professional, ethnic and fraternal organizations, and individuals. For example, in 1990, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as a private citizen was the founding contributor of Sabre's Czech and Slovak programs (see Washington Post article).

The USIA grant, administered by its Information Bureau, supports the implementation of Sabre book donation programs in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and selected countries in other regions, as well as the expansion and integration of on-line Internet capabilities.

In fact, Sabre initially expanded into the area of Internet related technologies through the use of electronic mail as the quickest and most efficient way of maintaining communications with its partners, providing them the opportunity to choose from up-to-date inventory lists those books they deem most needed.

Recent Sabre initiatives include programs for Bosnia & Herzegovina, South Africa, Mongolia, Brazil, Grenada, the West Bank and Gaza, Cuba and Tibetan refugee schools in India.

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