Community Web Pages Keep Communication Public
By Anitra Freeman
Last issue I defined six aspects of public control of the Internet: 1) You can use it. (Get access to it.) 2) You can get what you ask for from it. 3) You can have your say on it. 4) What you say is listened to. 5) You have an effect on it, or create an effect with it. 6) You control the plug - nobody else can bring the system down on you.

(I doubt even Bill Gates feels he has full control of #6.)

I described how the Homeless Women's Network and Seattle Community Network were increasing access and use. This week I want to start out by giving credit to two other major forces in community access and control on the Internet - the American Library Association, and cyber-cafes.

The libraries of America have been one of the major forces - along with the community networks, which they have supported - in keeping the Internet a public resource.

The ALA is not the only library association to have taken leadership in the field of public access to the Internet. It seems wherever I turn, whether it is a community network or a national conference, one of the library associations is involved. I picked the ALA site to stand for the rest.

The American Library Association, founded in 1876, is the world's oldest and largest national library association. Its mission statement includes "to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services...". The Association works closely with more than 70 other library organizations as well as with other organizations concerned with education, research, cultural development, recreation, and public service.

The Speakeasy is a business, but also has a nonprofit side, the Speakeasy Foundation, and hosts the Real Change website, the Homeless Women's Network website, and the upcoming StreetLife Gallery website as well as a number of other websites of community value and interest. The Speakeasy provides all members up to an hour a day of free Internet access time in a pleasant environment with art on the walls, music in the air, and whatever you can afford to eat or drink right beside you. It's even better than the library. (And has books, too.)

The Speakeasy's own mission statement says it intends, "... to provide the general public access to the methods of communication and volumes of information now available on the Internet, at a cost they can afford and in such a way that they aren't socially, economically, or politically isolated. The goal is to provide a service that is not simply entertaining, but educational, enlightening, and most of all empowering.

"The Speakeasy Cafe in Downtown Seattle is the first step in a network of cafes in the Puget Sound Region and around the world which will bring new definitions to our idea of community."

There are a growing number of great websites on the Speakeasy server; art & music sites, personal web pages, commercial web pages, and community interest web pages. And, the entire owner / staff being computer geeks, the Speakeasy main pages are constantly being updated to improve your ability to find what interests you.

Increasing what you can get from the net:
This is also a focus of HWN, which since its beginning has been a two-pronged effort: to increase access to the Internet on the part of homeless and low-income women, and to increase resource information out there on the Internet for them to access. The HWN database, and its access interface, was designed by homeless and formerly homeless women themselves, to make it easy to search for the kind of information most likely to be needed.

And going into its fifth year of service to Seattle is the Seattle Crisis Directory created by Peace Heathens and made available on-line by the Seattle Community Network. The Crisis Directory was referred to Dr. Wes Browning in his famous "Guide to Being Homeless", and has since returned the favor by quoting him.

OneWorld, This section written by Dr. Wes Browning
Increasing the information you have available on organizations working for change, and making networking easier. Terry Waite, in support of OneWorld Online, has said, "I feel particularly keenly the need for improved communications, because of having had an experience that deprived me of all forms of human communication for almost four years [referring to being held hostage by the Lebanese Islamic Jihad] ... except that one small postcard came through, from a woman I didn't know, bringing me a message of hope. I see an analogy between that and Internet." OneWorld Online is the internet arm of the One World Broadcasting Trust, a nonprofit organization set up in Britain in 1987 to promote global understanding through broadcasting, by establishing a "community of global justice organizations under one roof" within the internet.

OneWorld calls itself a supersite, but I would call it a *network* of related websites of participating organizations, 124 for now, that points the way to one possible direction the internet can be expected to take in the future. It was launched in January 1995. Within six months it offered the largest multimedia collection of data on sustainable development and human rights in the world. It currently averages approximately 70,000 hits per day, and the organization estimates (probably conservatively) that it has a quarter of a million readers during any month. The "site" offers, each week, more than two *gigabytes* of up-to-date information concerning human rights and economic and social development issues around the world.

Participating organizations include well known human rights and developments organizations such as Amnesty International and Oxfam, and research and policy making institutions in Europe and the US, but also grassroots Third World organizations, like Casa Alianza (Central America), which works with street children, and Katha (India) which works with child laborers.

Besides being a single gateway to websites of its member groups, OneWorld also channels the information that these groups collect throughout the world. So OneWorld is an outstanding alternative source of global news that maintains a sharp focus on human rights and needs.

An interesting feature of the site that I wasn't able to check out is the on-line audio broadcast of Belgrade's Radio B92. At one time, Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic Radio B92, expecting that it would die. But the radio station soon reappeared on the internet. Once it had hit the net, this local station - normally only available to the people of Belgrade - had millions of potential new listeners.

Several Web sites soon offered to host B92's reports in internet audio format. One of these was OneWorld Online, which also is establishing a radio new service to allow broadcasters to take audio off the net and rebroadcast it on their local stations, as well as adding broadcasts of other radio stations, and selected programs.

Some areas of the site are still in need of extensive construction, the "Think Tank" for instance, an archive of position papers. And I found a schedule of world radio programs dealing with human rights that needed to be updated. But given the magnitude of the project and the fact that it has only been in existence for two years I'd say that it is realizing the potential of the supersite concept well.

Homeless at CSF,
Created by Communications for a Sustainable Future, gopher:// , CSF "was founded on the idea that computer networking should be used to enhance communications with the objective of working through disparate views and ideologies to secure a more promising future."

CSF maintains a discussion list, (The subscription address for the list is The web page, Homeless at CSF, is a compilation of information from that list, including Shelters and Programs, Health and Medical Services, and a giant list of links.

Other Book & Web Reviews

Singing Bears Home Page