Making sure the Internet is for everyone In 1999 the BBC has published a draft version of this manifesto with a forum for discussion linked from http://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/0/. For more information mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org <span id=“top”
></span>These pages offer an invitation to help draft a
anifesto for action to develop online communities which benefit local communities - whether towns, villages, neighbourhoods or cities. There's a summary and explanation - or you can jump straight to a longer version of the manifesto. The main focus is UK, but I hope it has wider relevance. We aim to link our work with that of the Internet Societal Task Force http://www.istf.isoc.org and similar initiatives.
You can read a summary of subsequent discussion on the conet list here prepared by Jo Twist who is researching the relationships between on and off-line urban 'communities' and community-ICT relations at the Centre for Urban Technology
We have identified centres and online communities as the two key elements of 'community networking' - the use of information and communication technologies for community benefit developed in North America and elsewhere over the past 15 years.
There is a wealth of experience of centres - sometime called telecentres, sometimes community technology centres. There are also many local online communities. Sometime the centres and online communities are run by the same non-profit community networks that also provide access, training and support.
However, the pioneers of community networking are struggling to maintain these initiatives just when we face a massive growth of Internet use coupled with a move to digital television. The key issue is no long 'how do we get onto the Internet' - it is what do we want when we get connected and get 'there'.
That 'there' is cyberspace. When cyberspace is structured for entertainment, commerce, or discussion it become a cyberplace…. home to an online community.
The main drivers behind new developments in cyberspace are commercial. These pages argue for a complementary development of civic cyberspace - which in many instances may involve public, private and community partnerships.
These pages set out some principles for understanding and developing cyberspace, offer more details of a draft manifesto for creating cyberspaces as if citizens mattered, and explain why, in the UK particularly, the autumn of 1999 is an important time to address these issues.
The ideas are not new - but the time is now right to see if we can get a 'step change' in action to develop civic cyberspace, building on the efforts of community networkers.
To do that we offer ways in which those who wish to develop these ideas further can become involved. These pages cover:
First drafts were developed by David Wilcox with many comments from others. David Greenop developed the scenarios. More about the history of UK community networking here.
The manifesto draws on a campaign developed by UK Communities Online in 1997, when David Wilcox was acting director.
If the ideas in the manifesto are on track, how might we see some action? Hopefully the ideas will appeal to Policy Action Team 15 (see below), the new e-Minister and ultimately the Prime Minister. Meanwhile how about the classic device of a Task Force which would:
“Life experiences today are increasingly divided between the physical here and now and a 'someplace else' immanent in a virtual electronic space.
“The social, economic, and political lifelines of the world are now evolving almost exclusively within this electronic space. Here, for example, large corporate alliances busily co-ordinate their quest to balance efficiency, flexibility, and economies of scale.
“Here, data about consumer demand, production flows and finance is managed and shaped. Here is where our savings reside in bit form so that large banks and investment firms can fundamentally mould our lives. This virtual world is thus a place in which we already live.” David Greenop, Scenarios for Cyberspace.
Cyberspace exists, and permeates the 'real' world in which we live. For thousands of years we have developed the means to shape 'real' places - buildings, parks, villages, towns and cities - in ways which serve our social and economic needs. We understand something of what works and what doesn't, who benefits and who doesn't…. although there are many problems still to solve.
The challenge now is to create the cyberplaces we need, and to do that in ways which will help us tackle our 'real world' problems, not increase them. But who will design, who will control, who will pay, who will be able to enter - and who will be excluded from cyberplaces?
The issue is not just who can use computers and the Internet; it is where do these electronic pathways lead. These pages explore how we might design cyberplaces as if citizenship, democracy and social justice matter… while recognising that the main investments in construction will come from corporations properly concerned with customers and profits, and Governments seeking cost saving alongside social investments. That dilemma is not … but can we square the circle in cyberspace?
In the autum of 1999, several inquiries or debates will help shape the future of cyberspace as seen from the UK, and it is important that we share some understanding of the realities of cyberspace to inform those discussions. Elsewhere we set out some possible scenarios for cyberspace, and a draft manifesto which derives from the principles below.The inquiries and debates are:
www.partnerships.org.uk/cyber/index.htm September 8 1999