Work Plan


The primary goal will be the submission of an RFP to potentially interested organizations throughout Russia and subsequent review of the proposals - to identify potential sites for a second project stage.

Included in the RFP preparation will include basic research and development into community networking — with particular emphasis on application in Russian communities. Also important will be development of software for Russian community networks sufficient to build a prototype which can be used for public review/evaluation and as a basis for developing the technical hardware and software base on which the three to four community network sites are to be constructed.

The effort will also involve development of a human resource network (comprised of individuals with genuine interest in community networking in Russia) to assist in development of the RFP.

Before issuing an RFP, there must be a good body of public information dealing with civic networking. It must be publicly available via the Internet in Russia (and in the Russian language) and will be supplemented by communications services (such as email listservers and, perhaps, bulletin board systems) to facilitate questions and discussion.

Finally, of course, the planning project will involve writing a formal but flexible RFP which will be broadly disseminated (with other descriptive literature) throughout communities in Russia. After dissemination of the RFP, the next step will to be to focus on proposal evaluation and site selection.

The work plan is illustrated in this table. (Note: the timeline must be shifted to a begin date in April, 1997 (not January, 1997 as originally planned))

Phase I - Research and Development

One of the first steps in preparation of the RFP will be to research and document what is happening in the international civic networking movement. This will involve a thorough survey of current community networking initiatives, correspondence with community networking activists in the US. and elsewhere, and creation of a Web accessible (and Web maintainable) database on Internet accessible (and other) resources on community networking. This database will later comprise a large portion of the community networking World Wide Web server which will be listed on all literature and documentation presented with the RFP and which will serve as a central information repository for the project.

Research into community networking will draw heavily upon the experience of those involved in the Knoxville/Oak Ridge Community Network - a successful community network initiative (defined in terms of broad based community input and involvement). Simultaneous with this effort will be special effort to research internal Russian/NIS community networking and Internet connectivity activities and programs. The goal will be to provide a good base of information on the current Internet-related activities in the NIS and particularly those which are even peripherally focused on community networking. The result of this research will be material published on the web server describing the overall Internet connectivity situation as it relates to Russian community networking initiatives. This document should serve as a basis for discussion for later stages of the project.

We propose to research NIST and other RFP’s for similar US funding programs used in establishing community networks in the US. The time and experience which has gone into the development of these funding programs should prove valuable for this one - recognizing the different environments in which we will be developing community networking in Russia.

Although we have already done a fairly extensive job of evaluating hardware and software requirements for community networks (note that this goes far beyond the central Web server software - particularly as it relates to satisfying needs for public access for working from a variety of modems, terminals, etc.,) we will need to continue research into optimal and affordable hardware/software requirements for community network sites. One of our goals in this project is to eliminate as much as possible the technical barriers to the development of community networks and thus we must develop an optimal set of hardware and software recommendations and requirements for site development.

Also, we wish to continue software development for Russian/Internet community networking which will involve several components — including the creation of basic menu-driven software for navigating various Internet tools on a UNIX-server (this is especially for users on low end equipment and for those without current email or Internet access).

Since we propose to develop the community network as a part of a larger Friends and Partners “intranet”, an important component of the multi-site community network deployment will be the automated “mirroring” (or sharing) of local information at each of the other sites (and mirroring all other F&P information). Thus we need to complete special server software (on which we have already begun research) for real-time automated mirroring of Internet sites (including HTML material, SGML databases, WAIS databases, related software, etc.).

The software we will use for developing the menu driven interface to the community networks will be database driven and the SGML encoded databases will be Web accessible and Web maintainable by authorized local site individuals. From this database, applications will generate the menu portion of the system but will simultaneously generate the menus which comprise an important component of the Web accessible site (i.e., there will be two versions of the community network - one for menu driven UNIX server access and the other for Web access - but both will be maintained and automatically generated by the database driven software). Also, there will need to be a variety of tools implemented to assist in account establishment and maintenance, supervising/automating the management of limited resources (such as disk space and mail space) and various other administrative tools which will be essential to proper maintenance of the community network site.

A very important research component of this stage of the project will be to identify individuals and organizations to whom information about the project (and the RFP) are to be submitted. It is anticipated that a database of potentially interested parties will be created from contacting different educational groups, non-governmental organizations, local government groups, funding agencies, Internet service providers and individuals involved with various Internet-related projects in Russia. Using the human resource network identified later, we will create a list to whom the initial mailing will be targeted.

Since we will also want to issue a broad press-release about the project, we will need to create a database of various news/media organizations to whom we will also target information.

Finally, the results of hardware/software evaluation and development will be utilized to develop a prototype public community network which can be used for evaluation by potential participants in the project and also by those who agree to assist with project development.

Phase II - Human Resource Network

We believe the development of a broad community networking initiative in Russia to be a very important project. It is one in which we anticipate many other individuals and organizations will share our interest and enthusiasm. As a major component of our RFP development, we want to begin development of our own “human resource network” to assist in the evaluation of the ideas presented and in the development of a solid RFP. We propose that the development of this network take the following form:

We must begin by writing initial descriptive material for promotion of the idea of community networking. This will likely be drawn in large measure from this planning proposal but will focus more on benefits of civic networking and of our own specific plans for implementation. It is likely that the initial descriptive materials will serve as a “straw man” for development of the later RFP document. The descriptive material however is essential for presenting the ideas for various individuals and organizations who we hope will work with us.

After we have a reasonable description of community networking and of this project, we plan to contact various organizations drawn from a set of funding agencies, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions and community networking activists whom we feel might share potential interest in this project. The idea at this stage is not necessarily to establish contact with those whom we think will submit proposals but rather with organizations and individuals who have an interest in the development of telecommunications and information infrastructure in the NIS.

Part of this process will also be to create an email listserver for development of the RFP in which we will ask interested parties to join.

Finally, we will also need to begin identifying potential reviewers for the later site selection process.

Phase III - Public Information Preparation

By the time we go public with a request for proposals, we want to have a number of public information resources ready for distribution and access. These are briefly described below:

Of course the RFP itself will contain text serving as a thorough project description. However, we want information in other forms which will be useful for those considering participation. One of the most important of these will be a Russian Civic Network WWW server. This will be a bi-lingual server with primary parts of the server available in both English and Russian languages.

Much like our primary Friends and Partners server, this community network server will contain several interactive elements as well. The server will point to a variety of bulletin board systems and to email listservers (and to WAIS archives of email listserver postings). It will also include a searching and browsing interface to the database of community network resource created and referenced in the step above. Another item will be Adobe (PDF format) versions of all descriptive literature / brochures. The Russian Civic Network web server will function as a central information repository — although all project literature maintained there will be made available by other means and distributed by mail when requested.

Another very important component of public information will be some descriptive literature about the project to be made available in a printed brochure format. Copies of the brochure will be distributed with the formal RFP, will accompany any advertisement and, of course, be included in letters to individuals and organizations to whom we target information about the project.

We also propose to create a computer-based presentation (probably, in PowerPoint format) which will be useful for explaining the general idea of the project and as a means of providing samples of the information and communications services that will be available via the community networks. This presentation will probably be made available via the Internet both for downloading and for use with Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers which have the capability to automatically load and “play” PowerPoint presentations.

The primary purpose of doing such a thorough job in this area is to ensure that everyone has the same basic understanding of what we are proposing. There is very little information in Russia now about civic networking. We want to help remedy this lack of information - but also clearly outline the goals of this project.

Phase IV - RFP Preparation/Presentation

After the RFP, all literature, and Internet-accessible information and communications services are ready, the next step will be to send letters, RFP and literature to individuals and organizations identified earlier. The RFP will be mailed around March 15 with a recommended deadline of April 15 (and cut-off deadline of May 15), leaving the last 2-6 weeks of the project for proposal evaluation and site selection.

The project will also, of course, be announced widely via a variety of Internet-based services and via press releases distributed to media organizations identified earlier.

We also plan to purchase advertising space in various publications and newspapers (probably those few that have a fairly wide circulation in Russia). We will focus on those periodicals in which other educational and non-governmental organizations advertise and, perhaps, in one or more of the Internet magazines published now.

After presentation of the material, it is anticipated that there will be quite a few inquiries, telephone calls, requests for information, etc. There may also be a need to offer presentations to interested organizations.

Phase V - Proposal Evaluation / Site Selection

We will identify a panel of 5 people (the principal investigators on this project will serve as two of these positions) who will provide objective evaluation based on a number of criteria that will be developed in the R&D stage of the project. Based on early recommendations and identification of enthusiasm/talent, the review of proposals will be supplemented by telephone calls, additional correspondence and likely site visits to especially promising communities. Our plans now are to invite two additional Russian members of the panel and 1 additional American (someone very familiar with/involved with civic networking projects) - and will provide translation assistance for the non-Russian reviewers.

We will use similar structured evaluation practices as those used by funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation (i.e., criteria worksheets, sending a summary of comments back to submitters, etc.).

Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid. - Dostoevsky

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Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole
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