A Proposal To Create Habnet
Work Done For Habnet
A PROPOSAL TO CREATE HABNET
A COMPUTER NETWORK FOR THE HUMAN SETTLEMENTS FIELD
Habnet is to be a computer network linking people active in the field of human settlements. The technology now exists to allow participants, equipped with common desktop computers and using regular telephone lines, to send electronic mail, transfer lengthy documents , and hold on-line conferences.
With Habnet large numbers of people can now share information on a wide number of human settlements topics on a daily basis. A person's ideas, research results, or problems can now be expressed to one or a thousand others living in different parts of the world. The advantage to using computers is that the people don't have to all be in the same place at the same time to share information. The computer allows them to have on-going dialogues about things that concern them whenever and wherever they like. The cost is easily within the budgets of most organizations.
For Habitat - to get important information out to educators, researchers, and field workers in a timely fashion, and to receive immediate feedback from them on their activities.
For York - to facilitate the present networking initiative undertaken in collaboration with the Habitat information office there, and to explore the use of computer networking as a research tool.
For the Human Settlements Field - to allow for more grass-roots participation in issues, to assist in the co-ordination of projects, and to raise awareness of the complex, multi-disciplinary relationships surrounding human settlements problems.
A team of researchers at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University is currently engaged with the Habitat Information Office located there in a networking initiative. A series of meetings has been designed to bring together representatives of various constituencies active in the human settlements area ( academics, NGOs, private sector, government ). It is hoped that increased contact across institutional boundaries will encourage a more holistic approach to issues and result in more collaborative efforts among the participants.
This summer, people closely involved with the York/Habitat initiative will be given accounts on The Web, a Toronto-based, non-profit computer network. They will be provided with the necessary support to make full use of the communication facilities. Important Habitat documents and other pertinent information will be collected and made available on-line to them.
A proposal will be submitted to CIDA at the end of this summer requesting project funds to enable Habnet to expand. This year-long project will provide key human settlements people in North America and the Caribbean to join Habnet and explore its potential to assist in the improvement of human settlements conditions world-wide.
[Note - this was written by Michael Jensen in the spring of
1987 and is included here as a reference to Web as it was
at that time, not necessarily as it is now]
Currently hosted by the Ontario Environment Network, Web is
part of an emerging national network of alternative
electronic information services whose objective is to
provide its members with the cheapest and most effective
access to the new communications technology.
Aside from being able to tap into a range of new information
sources, Web enables fast, direct and multiple contact,
"horizontally" at the grass-roots level with a growing
number of like-minded individuals and organisations.
Environmental and development oriented organisations across
the country are dialling into Web, exchanging messages and
information. Web also has connections with other electronic
networks (like PeaceNet in the US and GreenNet in the UK) so
that Web's members can link up across the globe.
By supporting a common electronic host, we are encouraging
the creation of an online resource of shared information,
bringing down the time and cost of accessing other sources.
Using Web's sophisticated UNIX operating system, organis-
ations can set up an interactive database specially
configured to deliver your information. Using simple and well
known dBase lll+ code, user friendly database search
facilities have already been set up on Web. If required, some
of these routines could easily be modified for other
organisations to tailor specially to provide their own
specific information delivery tools. Access could also be
monitored by the organisation for fundraising purposes.
With the creation of private conferences, organisations can
have ongoing internal discussions with colleagues across the
country, while still in total privacy.
Web's longer-term philosophy:
While US already has a variety of centralised non-profit
electronic information services, Canada has a unique
opportunity to establish a decentralised network of hosts
more suited to Canada's scale. Because long distance
telecommunications charges constitute most of the users'
cost of using a national network, hosts operating in
parallel will hopefully be established across the country,
ultimately in every local dialling area serving a dozen or
However, until other hosts connect up, Web is available
across Canada via Bell Canada's data lines (Datapac and
In Toronto, Web is available 24 hours a day with a local
Web is available to the non-profit sector and is currently
hosted by the Ontario Environment Network (OEN) - a
charitable umbrella group for grassroots environment groups
across the province. Originally established for its members,
the OEN decided that Web should be offered on a
multisectoral basis to share the costs and also help build a
stronger social justice community. Currently it is expected
that the service be ultimately supported by user fees.
Charges below reflect current costs and will be adjusted
accordingly as circumstances change.
Depending on the size of your budget, the cost of a
subscription to Web costs between $10 and $20 a month. If
you're in Toronto this plus a $25 setup fee for manuals and
disks are the only charges.
The fee structure runs as follows:
Personal/organisational budget Monthly subscription
$0 - 30 000 $10
$30 000 - 99 000 $12.50
$99 00 - 199 000 $15.00
$199 - 000+ $17.50
There is a 25% reduction for payment 6 months in advance and
a 35% reduction for a year's subscription. In addition there
is a 10% reduction for use of a credit card.
In addition, multiple IDs billed to the same address are
subject to a reduction, depending on the number of IDs.
Private conferences can be set up for $25 each.
Those outside Toronto will, be required to pay a share of
the long distance communications costs charged by Datapac or
iNet. Web is actively seeking financial support to help
subsidise long distance charges.
Datapac currently costs about $4.00 an hour and is available
from about 120 locations across the country. The local phone
book can be checked for a number.
Access via iNet is $4.50 an hour during non-prime time (6pm
to 6am) and $6.00 an hour during the prime period. Aside
from the same 120 locations, iNet also has 1800 number
access. However iNet also has a $3 a month charge to
maintain an id on their gateway to Web. iNet normally costs
$50 to register but this fee has been waived for those
joining iNet as an Alternet associate. Make sure you ask
your Bell representative for this to avoid paying the fee.
Summary of Web facilities:
Documents prepared on any wordprocessor may be sent via Web
for instantaneous delivery to other Network members,
eliminating Puroletters and time consuming mailings.
Using Web's conferring software, members will be able to
conduct 'electronic' meetings, making conversation
independent of time and space.
To provide the framework for conducting these electronic
exchanges, Web uses a specially developed conferencing
language called PicoSpan, also used by the Whole Earth
Review's Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (WELL).
Aside from cutting down on travel costs, users can be
better prepared for face-to-face events by receiving
agendas, briefings and minutes right up till deadline. In
addition, those unable to make real meetings can continue to
Electronic conferring offers a number of positive benefits:
More thought can be given to responses, ideas are exchanged
more rapidly, social barriers diminish and people seem to
interact more as equals. It is possible to take as much time
as needed to collect and compose thoughts, shy people find
it easy to enter electronic discussions, while aggressive
people who tend to intimidate others in face to face events
are much less likely to dominate online.
Any number of public and private conferences can be
created as needed. Set up one for a limited time to address
a problem with an immediate deadline, or help maintain
ongoing conferences that explore general concerns for months
or even years.
With many computer experts on tap, Web also provides an
effective support service for groups and individuals needing
Aside from electronic mail and conferencing services, Web
also offers an extensive library of public domain and shared
software, as well as use of an online database program for
customised mailing lists, abstracts and record oriented
Because Web's database facility uses the popular dBase III+
format, members can download our files and run the databases
on directly their own computers.
This makes it easy for Web users to create specially
customised databases for such uses as: membership lists,
organization addresses, addresses of media organisations and
other promotional contacts.
Members may also request searches of over 800 electronic
databases at cost. The results of these searches can be
delivered by email, on disk (ASCII text; IBM, Macintosh, or
CP/M formats) and printed matter (via postal delivery).
WORK DONE FOR HABNET
Development of a contact database (Notebook)
Acquiring equipment and ensuring access to Web
- computer and data phone line for Habitat office
- communications software (Procomm and Red Ryder)
- developing instruction sheet for access from FES computer room
- "A Proposal to Create Habnet" brochure
- Habnet instruction sheets
- "Accessing Web with PCPlus"
- "Accessing Web with Procomm"
- "Commands Available on Web"
- "Benefits of Computer Conferencing"
- "Habnet: Potential Users" list
- List of Web users
- List of conferences available on Web
- MicroEmacs help screens
- "Quick Reference Guide to Using Notebook"
- "How to Access Web from FES Computer Room"
- "On-line conference moderation"
Reproducing and distributing documents
- Web membership agreements
- Web manuals
- Web brochures
- Procomm and PCPlus manuals
- MicroEmacs manuals
- "A Brief Overview of Using International Packet Switching Networks"
Training sessions for Habitat group/individuals
- overview of computer networks
- concepts of computer networking and computer conferencing
- Red Ryder
Creating and facilitating Habnet conferences on Web
- habnet (private)
- humset (public)
Communicating via e-mail on Web
Promotion of Habnet
- phone calls
- visits - Toronto
- articles in newsletters
- FES News
- FES International Development Newsletter
- AUCC Newsletter
- presentations at Y/HNI constituency meetings
- presentation to FES in Fall '88
- postings and messages on Web
Reports on activities
Initial outlines of CIDA proposal to fund Habnet
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