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The following ideas were sparked off by discussions held during a recent meeting of IDEAS ("Internet, Democracy, Economy and Services" - a discussion group based in Geneva Switzerland - an initiative of Guy Girardet of the ITU and Bruno Lanvin of UNCTAD).

Visions and usage of Internet

The Internet and its users

The word "Internet" in what follows should be understood in a dynamic way as a process leading to what some call the "Information Society" or the "Learning Society" and not simply the current state of the Internet.

As Internet users, we need to think about Internet both from the point of view of the vision we have of it and the use each of us puts it to. The former approach concerns questioning our perception of Internet as a whole and clarifying the underlying values we attribute to it. The latter is a question of exploring our own ways of working with the Internet and drawing conclusions both about improving them and possible infrastructure and regulatory changes to facilitate them.

Underlying values

Behind many of the themes evoked at the recent IDEAS meeting was the question of the underlying values we collectively attribute to the Internet. These shared values are often fuzzy, unspoken if not mythical. One important task we, as Internet users, must undertake is to become more articulate about those values so that we can defended them better.

In the following list - which is not exhaustive - I have attempted to formulate some of the values behind the desires and fears expressed by those present at the IDEAS meeting. Doing so is not an easy task as words play tricks on us, they resist change and tend to mean different things to different people.

A list of possible values

  1. The predominance of human aspects
    Although it be centred on technology, the most important aspect of Internet is human, i.e. the people who uses it, their ways of using it, the values it epitomises for them and its relationship to society.
  2. An on-going learning experience
    Using the Net should be seen as a learning experience.
  3. Full two-way communication
    Each individual should be able to make material available on the Net and every individual should be able to access all published information.
  4. Mutual understanding and collaboration
    It is essential to cut across existing barriers between disciplines, activities and schools of thought so as to promote more creative and flexible exchange, collaboration and understanding.
  5. Solidarity
    Individuals should help each other in a predominantly non-profit context. This way of thinking is close to one advocated by André Gorz - in a different context - who pleaded for increase of extra-market activities where gifts or free exchange are the rule. A corollary to this is that the Internet should not be entirely devoted to or dominated by commercial activities.
  6. Universal access
    Access should be universal, that is to say, cost, geographical situation, lack of know-how or other handicap should not constitute barriers to access.
  7. Ownership and control
    No one company, organisation, country, community or group of such should own or control the Internet.
  8. Multilingualism
    The Internet should allow and enable the use of any and every language.
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Created: May 1st, 1996 - Last up-dated: May 1st, 1996