Ronda Hauben on 4 Dec 2000 17:15:13 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] First anniversary EU NGO Citizen's Agenda Conference - Dec 3,4,5 1999

[This is an email I sent to Amy Goodman at WBAI at Democracy Now about
an the first anniversary of an important event that in Finland last year.
I am in the process of writing up a version of the talk I gave in Finland.
If anyone is interested in a copy, let me know and I'll send a copy.]

>From: <>
>Subject: Email for Amy Goodman about 1st anniversary citizen2000 conference

Dear Amy or others at Democracy Now  (WBAI)

It seems important to not get into the interparty (oneparty) squabbles
that are now dominating the election talk and leaving the people
out and the real issues of the campaign out. 

The real issue that is underlying the whole crisis in the American
government right now is that the current party processes and practices
leave out the American people. A government needs connections
with its citizens to be able to function and both the Democracy
and Republican parties have increasingly seen the corporations 
as their citizens, not the American people. That is the basis of the 
current constitutional crisis in the US, rather than whether some candidate
got their votes counted or not counted.  Most of the American people 
didn't vote for either of these two candidates and for good reason.
Democracy is not the result of voting for candidates chosen
by a process that leaves most of the citizens out. And that leaves
them out after the election as well.

Today, September 4 is an anniversary of an important event that
broke through this narrow framing of issues of what democracy means.

It is the anniversary of a European Union conference in Tampere, Finland
last year (September 3, 4, 5, 1999) on the subject of how can citizens
have more of a voice in the decisions made by governments. This
conference was called Citizen Agenda 2000 NGO Forum and the program is online 
at  It was a conference held by the NGO's
of the European Union. I was invited to participate in a seminar
about potential of the Internet to make increased citizenship participation
in government decisions possible.
This seminar (Civic Participation, Virtual Democracy and the Net) is 
described in

The speakers at the seminar presented a varied set of experiences
of research in trying to determine the potential of the Internet.

My talk was on "Is the Internet a Laboratory for Democracy? The
vision of the Netizens versus the E-commerce Agenda.

A number of interesting problems were raised at the seminar including 
the need for all citizens to have access to the Internet if it is to 
make it possible for citizens to have more say in the decisions of 
government. And the problem of government representatives who claim 
that because they are elected they don't have to listen to citizens 
and their concerns, but can choose to listen to whomever they wish 
(i.e. corporate interests).

An important point raised during the talks was that it is critical
for citizens to make a record of their efforts to participate in
government processes and decisions, and to document the fact that
their input is not being considered as a means to change the situation.

In my talk I spoke about the issue of the US government privatizing
first the backbone to the US portion of the Internet, and now
trying to privatize essential functions of the Internet's infrastructure.
And that it is crucial that citizens know of these activities and 
continue the challenge that is being raised about them.

The conference in Finland followed directly after the protests in
Seattle and some of the NGO's had sent representatives to the protests
and then to the conference. The conference was in an important way
a clear statement of what the protests in Seattle and Washington and 
Prague and at the Democratic and Republican Conventions in the US
have been about. 

The vision of the socio-technical pioneers who began the research
which has resulted in the Internet was of a network that would make
it possible for citizens to participate in the decisions of its 

The concept of citizen and of netizen are important concepts for our
times and the conference in Finland one year ago has helped to rekindle
the vision of the pioneers of the Internet for increased human-to-human
communication faciliated by the developing computer network.

Ronda Hauben
co-author "Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet"
published by IEEE Computer Society Press, 1997 and online at

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