Project Bosnia: Independent Media Server

Project Description | Project Goals | Project Prospectus| Trip Report | Trip Photos |
PowerPoint Slide Presentation
| Technical Solutions | Participants | Sponsors |
Link to the Independent Media Server

Project Prospectus

Assistant Dean Charles Rudnick (right) and IPRO team members, IV Ashton, Tomas Johanson, Patrick Wagstrom, and John Warden at the International Press Club in Banja Luka.


Journalists in Banja Luka learn how to post and retrieve news stories on the Internet, using the new Independent Media Server.

Project Bosnia IPRO team members present the new Independent Media Server to Milos Solaja (left), manager of the International Press Club.

Assistant Dean Rudnick and IPRO Student Director IV Ashton at the International Press Club in Banja Luka, location of the Independent Media Server.

June 1998

        The nearly four years of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina marked the worst fighting on European soil since World War II. From 1992 to 1995, the tiny former Yugoslav republic was tom asunder. Roads, bridges and apartment buildings were shattered. Water, heat and electricity became sporadic at best, frequently leaving the city without such necessities for days or even weeks at a time. In cities like Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, conducting routine chores like going to the marketplace oftentimes proved life threatening, due to incoming mortar shells, snipers, or land mines. For Bosnian attorneys, judges, professors and law students, the elements of a legal infrastructure were shattered by this war. Law libraries, law books, and legal records were destroyed, and many legal institutions ceased to function. Similarly, Bosnian journalists, broadcasters, and newspaper publishers faced daunting challenges in the absence of printing presses and telecommunications services.
          While the Dayton Accords and an international military presence ended the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a strong and lasting peace may prove elusive unless the rule of law is restored. The rule of law and a civil society will significantly enhance Bosnia's long-term prospects for peace. The former requires functioning legal institutions that are perceived as legitimate. To be perceived as legitimate, legal institutions must be able to exchange and disseminate information. The Internet is the most efficient and inexpensive way to fulfill these objectives.

          The underlying philosophy of Project Bosnia is that Internet technology can help rebuild Bosnian law libraries, the court system and legislative processes, as well as provide the means for Bosnian journalists and other members of the press and media to assure the freedom of information by practically replacing the mortar, bricks, paper and printing presses with virtual legal infrastructure, news boards and web-forums. The implementation of Internet-based legal and media infrastructures will allow immediate and unencumbered access to the court rulings, criminal cases, newly drafted laws, news, judicial opinions and other pertinent information. Law students, professors and journalists will be able to exchange views and publish their work through e-mail exchanges, news groups and Web-based discussion forums. It will afford a free information exchange among members of Bosnian legal, press and media communities, as well uncensored communication with their international colleagues.

          Project Bosnia began with the donation of a laptop computer to three law faculty members from the University of Sarajevo, who visited the Villanova School of Law in January, 1996. Project Bosnia, under the leadership of Dean Henry H. Perritt, Jr., focused initially on legal institutions in the cities of Sarajevo and Mostar, both in the Muslim-Croat half of Bosnia. During two trips to Bosnia in 1996, Dean Perritt and Project Bosnia students laid the groundwork for the installation of the region's first Internet server with telephone dial-up capability, and equipped the Federation Constitutional Court and Ombudsmen with a number of Pentium computers. The project subsequently arranged for the donation and delivery of an Internet server, and obtained monetary and other resources from the World Bank, U.S. Government, Soros Foundation and other institutions and individuals to provide ongoing support for the project's work.

          The idea for expanding the project to media institutions in Banja Luka, seat of government of the Serb half of Bosnia, was born out of a September 1996 meeting in a Sarajevo café between Dean Perritt and the chief U.S. Information Agency officer in Bosnia. Dean Perritt and a group of students from Chicago-Kent then traveled to Banja Luka in the fall of 1997 to establish the necessary relationships and obtain technical information to set up an Independent Media Intranet in Banja Luka. The IIT "Project Bosnia" IPRO was subsequently established to provide an academic framework in which IIT students from a variety of disciplines could participate in accomplishing the new goals of Project Bosnia in Banja Luka.

          Project Bosnia has established separate, yet related, objectives for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Muslim-Croat half of the country) and the Republika Srpska (the Serb half of the country).

          General Objective: Develop an Internet-based legal information infrastructure for Bosnia, which will promote the free flow of information and will enhance the rule of law.

          Federation Objective: Create a legal Intranet for Bosnian Federation legal institutions in Sarajevo such as the Constitutional Court, Ministry of Justice and Ombudsmen, which, in turn, will facilitate the exchange of legal information between other courts, the proposed Truth Commission, cantons, independent judges' and prosecutors' associations, and lawyers.

          Republika Srpska/IPRO Objective: Create an Independent Media Intranet in Banja Luka, the seat of government of Republika Srpska, to promote the free flow of unbiased information among the press, legal and governmental institutions, and the public. This will in turn enhance the rule of law in the Republika Srpska and Bosnia. While a distinct goal, this is related to the Federation objective. Project Bosnia intends to link the Federation and Republika Srpska projects to each other and to the Internet.

          In order to achieve the objectives for the Republika Srpska described above, Project Bosnia was expanded into an Interprofessional Project ("IPRO") at Illinois Institute of Technology and Chicago-Kent College of Law for the Spring 1998 semester. The IPRO consists of IIT undergraduate engineering, computer and psychology students, Chicago-Kent law students, and students from the Stuart School of Business.
          Dean Perritt and teaching assistant IV Ashton challenged the IPRO students with establishing the Independent Media Intranet system in Banja Luka. The students were responsible for designing the software and hardware configuration of the Intranet, locating equipment for the system and arranging for it to be shipped to Bosnia, seeking financial support for the project, and traveling to Banja Luka to install the system and arrange for initial training.

          The centerpiece of the Media Intranet system is an Internet server which was donated by Sun Microsystems. In March 1998, four of the IPRO students - three IIT undergraduates and one law student - traveled to Bosnia with Chicago-Kent Assistant Dean Charles Rudnick and installed the server, along with several desktop computers and other equipment, in the International Press Club in Banja Luka. The IPRO team also arranged for and helped to connect the Intranet to the Internet, providing full Internet access to the media community of Republika Srpska. This successful mission was completed in less than one week.

          To achieve the ambitious goals set out at the beginning of the IPRO, it was necessary to divide the students into working groups focused on four key areas:

1. Technical Aspects, including Hardware and Software;
2. Training;

3. Web Page Development; and

4. Public Relations and Development.

Each of these areas is considered in more detail below.


Technical Aspects of the Project
          Technological aspects of the IPRO were divided into two separate groups: Hardware/Network configuration and Software.

          Software was designed and written by IPRO students, which allows journalists to post information to the Independent Media Server and permits individuals to retrieve the information over the Internet from anywhere in the world. The PCs use standard workstation software, such as Windows 95, Microsoft Word, and Netscape Communicator. The Sun-Netra server came pre-installed with the Solaris operating system and the Netscape Suitespot Server.

Hardware/Network Configuration

          The IPRO students designed and developed the network that comprises the Independent Media Server. Prior to the March 14th, trip to Bosnia, the IPRO students, under the supervision of faculty advisors, configured the donated computer equipment in Chicago. During the students' six-day trip to Banja Luka, they installed and connected the server to the Internet through a 16K dedicated leased line. In addition, the students also connected six dial-up lines to the server. As a result, the Independent Media Server provides email and Web information access to anyone with a modem-equipped personal computer and an account on the server.

          The network is comprised of the following hardware:

          Sun-Netra Internet server: At the core of the network is a $25,000 Sun Microsystems Internet Server. It is a Sun-Netra Internet server with Ultrasparc 167 MHz processors and 192 Megs of RAM. The server allows anyone connected to it to browse the Internet, and likewise gives anyone using the Internet access to documents stored on the server. A person simply requests access to the server via the following address: www.bl.project-bosnia.org.

          Hewlett Packard Advanced-Stack 12 Port Ethernet Hub: Four IBM computers are connected to the media server through a Local Area Network ("LAN") by 1OBaseT Ethernet cables (also known as rj45), which plug-in to a Hewlett Packard Advance-stack 12 port hub. The hub, as the name suggests, serves as a way for all of the computers (and other devices) to connect to one another. The Ethernet hub connects the server to the Internet through an attached modem.

          Cisco 3000 Router: The thin coax port on the Ethernet hub attaches to a Cisco 3000 router. The router acts as the "gateway" to the Internet for computers on the LAN by controlling the direction of the Transport Control Protocol/Internet Protocol ("TCP/IP") packets.

          3Com/US Robotics Netserver Plus 8: Dial-up access to the network is obtained through a 3Com/US-Robotics Netserver Plus 8. The Netserver connects to 6 phone lines at the IPC to the media server.


          Providing training for Bosnian journalists about the uses of the Independent Media Server is critical to the success of our project. With the exception of a few news agencies in Bosnia that have limited Internet experience, most news services require training in the practical uses of the Internet. To that end, the IPRO students formed a committee to develop training materials for journalists on the uses of the Independent Media Server. Additionally, those who traveled to Bosnia held training secessions with reporters to demonstrate how to use the media server to post and retrieve information.

Web Content
          Another area on which the students focused was developing and maintaining Web content. The IPRO Web site provides general information about Project Bosnia and publicizes the work the students have done with detailed project reports, schematics of the network, and announcements of new developments. The IPRO Web site contains a Bosnian legal information database, including constitutions and laws, the Dayton Peace

          Accords, and decisions from new Bosnian judicial institutions such as the Constitutional Court. The site also provides links to International news services and other sites related to Bosnia and international organizations such as the LJN.

Public Relations

          One goal of the IPRO was to create public awareness about Project Bosnia and to secure donations of needed equipment. As such, students from a variety of disciplines formed a Public Relations/Development committee.

          The students from the Public Relations/Development committee created a four-page informational brochure detailing Project Bosnia's vision, objectives and accomplishments. The students also produced an eight-page newsletter explaining the history of Project Bosnia in greater detail, and wrote press releases which announced significant events like the departure and return of our delegation to Bosnia, and major donations of telecommunications equipment. These publications were sent to news agencies, potential donors, and other interested parties in the U.S. and in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

          In addition to the numerous publications written by members of Project Bosnia, team members canvassed area law firms and local telecommunications companies seeking monetary contributions and donations of computer equipment necessary to connect the independent press in Banja Luka to the Internet. These efforts proved to be very effective. Numerous organizations generously contributed needed equipment. Among the major donors:

          - Sun Microsystems donated a Sun-Netra Server.

- 3 Com/US Robotics contributed a Netserver 8 used to handle the dial-up phone lines at the International Press Club.

- CICNET, a Chicago-area Internet service provider, donated a Cisco 3000 router used to link the various network components together.

- Motorola donated the two FTIOO modems used to connect the International Press Club to the Internet.

          As indicated above, the Project Bosnia IPRO has achieved its initial objectives. The Independent Media Intranet is fully operational and connected to the Internet, designed by IPRO students and using software developed in the IPRO for this project. The initial training of journalists in Banja Luka has been undertaken, and resources to maintain the system for an initial period have been obtained.

          For its future work, Project Bosnia IPRO plans to build on the foundation of an information technology infrastructure which has been laid in the Republika Srpska and the Federation. The Internet servers now operational in Banja Luka and Sarajevo provide the opportunity for journalists, legal institutions, governmental institutions and the public from throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina to have even greater access to news and information from each other and throughout the world. Project Bosnia would like to facilitate the access to this information by establishing additional servers and connectivity in appropriate locations around the country. This process will further promote the symbiosis among the people of Bosnia, media institutions, and governmental/legal institutions, thus providing additional strength for the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

          The success of the Project Bosnia IPRO also provides a model for similar work in other emerging democracies. Already, Professor Richard Warner of Chicago-Kent has emulated the Project Bosnia formula, spearheading "Project Poland," an effort to provide Internet and Web assistance to judicial institutions in Poland. Chicago-Kent is also considering using the Project Bosnia IPRO to solve technological issues relating to establishing the rule of law in countries such as Macedonia, Ukraine and China.

          Project Bosnia IPRO has provided a unique opportunity for students from a variety of disciplines to work together in solving technological and practical issues, while simultaneously making a significant contribution to the people of Bosnia as they struggle to establish a functioning democracy. The success of the project was recently acknowledged at IIT's IPRO Day, where Project Bosnia IPRO received the first place award for the IPRO which "most exemplified the spirit of the IPRO program."

ROLTT Project: Institutions | Sponsors | Internal | Contact Info

The Rule of Law Through Technology Initiative
is an Interprofessional Project (IPRO) of

Chicago-Kent College of Law,
Illinois Institute of Technology