A Proposal To Create Habnet

    Web Overview

    Work Done For Habnet




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

more users.

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

telephone call.

Expected Users:

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

participate electronically.

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

computer advice.

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).


Development of a contact database (Notebook)

Acquiring equipment and ensuring access to Web

- computer and data phone line for Habitat office

- modem

- communications software (Procomm and Red Ryder)

- developing instruction sheet for access from FES computer room

Creating Documents

- "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

- Web

- Emacs

- Procomm

- Red Ryder

Creating and facilitating Habnet conferences on Web

- habnet (private)

- humset (public)

Communicating via e-mail on Web

Promotion of Habnet

- letters

- memos

- phone calls

- visits - Toronto

- Ottawa

- 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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