For those who are not familiar with its services, the Voice Of America is the international broadcast service of the U.S. Information Agency. While VOA has been providing up to date news through a variety of media for more than forty years, a relatively new way of accessing this information is through the Internet. The VOA gopher, located at gopher.voa.gov:70/11/, is a remarkably well- maintained source of news, and any other information having to do with the many Voice of America services. While this information would be of particular interest to the Political Scientist, or anyone interested in current international news, the "About the Voice of America" file on this gopher describes itself as covering "economics, science, medicine, technology, agriculture, and music."
The directory which is perhaps most impressive, and deals with the most familiar service of VOA, is the News and English Broadcasts Wire Service. Much like its broadcast counterpart, this directory provides up to date news from bureaus all over the world, averaging 180 stories per day. What is really remarkable about this service is the claim that news stories are posted to this gopher within five minutes of the time that they are posted to the wire. The impact of this was very effectively illustrated to me when the first story that I read had been posted fifteen minutes earlier, and was not on the network television news until six hours later. Stories are arranged in files that cover one day of the week, and are kept on the gopher for seven days. There are, however, repeated notices that, in keeping with U.S. law, these files are not available to users within the United States. I would be interested to know if this is in fact the case.
This gopher also includes complete schedules for many VOA services, including program and frequency schedules for radio broadcasts to fifty countries around the world, once again, updated frequently. For those who use the Worldnet Television Services, and its great variety of programs, this gopher provides schedules as well as all of the satellite downlink information necessary to receive these broadcasts. I imagine that this source of information would be very useful to those in far off places who wished to keep up with international news. With an Internet connection, one could read the news, and receive schedules for a wide variety of television shows through a familiar interface, no matter where in the world one was sitting at the time. With the proper equipment, one could even receive audio versions of the news over their personal computer. The directory on this gopher with the title "VOA Internet Audio", provides compressed digitize audio files of selected VOA broadcasts. These may be downloaded, uncompressed and played back on your personal computer. There are warnings, however, that these files can be quite enormous, may take a great deal of time to download, and may also require significant bandwidth for transmission.
Finally, this gopher provides a list of all of the files available from the VOA and Worldnet Public Internet Server, an anonymous FTP site holding the text of many VOA and Worldnet documents. As with many other gopher servers, VOA offers connections to other servers of interest to its users. This is a very well organized and well-maintained gopher server. Those interested in VOA services, or simply in the most up to date source of international news (short of reading it off of the wire) should find this site to be quite valuable.
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario, Canada