7.0584 ACM on Information Infrastructure (1/80)

Wed, 30 Mar 1994 22:24:36 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 7, No. 0584. Wednesday, 30 Mar 1994.

Date: Tue, 29 Mar 1994 14:11:14 -0600
From: Mark Olsen <mark@TUNA.UCHICAGO.EDU>

I am posting this policy statement from the ACM's (Assocation for
Computing Machinery [sic]) which is, I believe, the largest and oldest
professional computing organization in the country. The policy
issues discussed here will have a significant impact on the future
of the network. I believe it is important that scholars and students
in the humanities have a voice in this process, since they are
rarely have a presence in such debates. Please forward comments
and suggestions to Dr. Simons.



>From Barbara Simons <simons@VNET.IBM.COM> Chair, ACM U.S. Public Policy
Committee (USACM); Researcher, Applications Development Technology Institute,
IBM Santa Teresa Laboratory

Statement of USACM, the Public Policy Committee of ACM

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) endorses the creation of
a National Information Infrastructure (NII) in the United States.

An NII that brings an open flow of information to U.S. citizens
can improve economic well-being and can bring major advances in
areas such as education, public health, public libraries, and a
wide range of government and social services. As users of the
precursors of the NII, ACM members are well aware of the benefits
such a system can offer for business, education, communication,
information, improved productivity, and quality of life.

USACM believes that such wide-reaching infrastructure must
guarantee that the system be affordable and accessible for all.
Access has several dimensions, most of which require public
policy attention.

o Availability--An eventual NII must be geographically ubiquitous
and accessible to everyone, both users and service providers.

o Protection of information rights--Privacy, property rights, public
access rights, and freedom of speech will have to be protected. Lack
of such protections will discourage public access and exchange of ideas.

o Affordability--Connection to a NII should be priced so that there can
be universal access to a basic level of services. Also, access should
be made available through public schools and public libraries, especially
those in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

o Access to public services--The U.S. government will need to assure
that applications with broad public benefit, such as interaction with
government agencies and access to public data, are developed and made

o Lack of bias--Explicit efforts are needed to ensure that the NII
addresses the entire spectrum of citizens and decreases the current
cultural and gender gaps in technologically oriented services. All
members of society should be encouraged to become information-technology

o Ease of use--Access to the network and its basic services must be
made so simple that even novices can use them and experts can work
rapidly and effectively.

USACM believes that such an NII is technically feasible. That is not to
say all problems are solved. Many of the technical issues are at the
frontier of computer research and must receive proper attention. Many
of the applications envisioned are large and complex, and will require
the cooperation of much of the computer/communications industry, in
areas that have posed substantial difficulties in the past.

We urge that the goals listed above be considered of primary importance
in the research, design, and implementation of the NII, and that the
broader public be included in the discussions among technical and
political participants that will lead to decisions. It will not be easy
to forge the necessary agreements among the many different voices to be
heard, but it is a crucial part of shaping the information future.