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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.).
The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. - Eden Phillpotts