Project Goals

While the immediate subject of this proposal is a 5 month planning project to study community networking within Russia and to identify individuals and organizations with whom we can work on a second, implementation, phase, we wish to place this within the context of our longer term objectives of creating a network of civic networks within Russia as a part of the overall Friends and Partners "intranet". While we intend to learn much during the 5 month planning effort which will modify much of the following material, we offer the following as our current direction.

In our efforts to build civic networks in Russia, we propose to build upon work done in partnership with "Friends and Partners" in the local community of Knoxville and Oak Ridge, Tennessee with KORRNet ( in providing a large civic network for the East Tennessee region.

One of the primary purposes in organizing KORRNET was to broaden access and use of local, regional, national, and international information and communication services to the local public who might not otherwise have the possibility of such access. But, of equal importance, was the ability of community networks to offer the same public the ability to publish information. This has proven to be of vital importance in giving "voice" to such groups as non-governmental organizations, educators, government agencies, senior citizens, etc. These are the same motivating objectives for our work in Russia.

On a technical level, we wish to help communities develop their own information services and supplement this with software for constructing interactive bulletin-board systems, email listservers, interactive chat sessions, etc. The community networks will provide software which will allow access to basic Internet services such as email, World Wide Web, telnet, ftp, etc., but to also make possible the easy construction of a Web accessible version of the network using the same software we use for KORRNet. This software will support multiple language content and will provide the same services as the larger Friends and Partners project for handling different Russian encodings.

An additional challenge, important to our work, is to make the content of each community network accessible to other communities in Russia via the Friends and Partners 'intranet' of mirrored information servers. The goal is to extend the ability of local communities to publish easily in other communities in their own country and in other locations of the world. There are several components of this ambitious work.

  1. To provide software which will make it easy to build and maintain community networks in different locations;

  2. To provide the software which makes it possible to mirror specified parts of the community networks in other locations;

  3. To provide software for those users who would use the community network for email as well as Internet browsing. (we have already modified and installed such software for our own community network - it will only need to be modified to support the Russian language);

  4. To provide basic server and telecommunications hardware (i.e., 'modem pools') for establishment of the community network and to make some level of public dial-in access available to local citizens and organizations;

  5. To provide continuing programs of training and support - for system administrators, for community development activists, and for the end users;

  6. To develop a "community network" among local community network developers, system administrators and users for facilitating indigenous development of community networking throughout Russia.

One of the reasons that we are proposing an initial project of three or four community network sites (instead of investing more resources in a single community network) is to begin to lay the foundation for a community of individuals and initiatives involved in Russian community networking. There is little or no tradition for such in Russia. By helping create several community networks simultaneously, we can take advantage of a wider body of experience which should prove useful for subsequent effort.

Of course, this creates additional challenges for project management. To help make it manageable, we will encourage the use of identical hardware and software platforms; will provide some good software tools for Web authoring and management, other tools for listserver management (and other communication services such as chat rooms and bulletin board systems) and will provide a web site and communications services to support the network of community networks- with specific services for system administrators and others for community network activists.

By taking care of many of the technical problems on the front-end, we will try to ensure that technical issues do not dominate the community network deployment; we can instead together focus on what is required to make community networks successful in terms of broad-based community interest, support and participation.

By 'mirroring' each community network at each other site, making local access quick and easy, each community network can stay well informed about what the others are doing - taking advantage of good ideas and building upon them. To further collaboration among the various participants, we would like to propose that each site develop at least one resource that is of genuine interest and benefit to all other community networks. For this we are suggesting that each create and maintain a 'topical' community network focused on a discipline or interest area in which local participants have interest and possibilities of contribution. By doing so, we hope to encourage collaboration across the entire network of civic networks.

While the technical requirements of this project are non-trivial, the most important part of this task will be identifying individuals and organizations in a representative set of communities who are ready to invest local time and resources sufficient to make this initial phase of the project successful. In order to do so, we must prepare and broadly issue an RFP and then evaluate submitted proposals to identify communities where there is genuine interest and enthusiasm for community networking and where local infrastructure provides good chance of success.

Included in the Appendix of this proposal is material drawn from our "Friends and Partners Future" WWW server - in which we discuss the broader goals of Friends and Partners and specific plans for the immediate and longer-term future. This WWW server is still in a draft stage but will soon be announced on the Internet at URL: (U.S. address) and (Russian address).

Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. - Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

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1996 Friends and Partners
Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole
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Updated: 1999-04-

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