APC's first decade: A chronological look at APC's history

APC celebrated its 10th anniversary during the 6th APC Council meeting, held in Visegrád, Hungary in May 2000. But the history of the APC’s pioneering role in enabling social movements to benefit from the potential of ICT (information and communication technology) can be traced back to 1985. These chronological notes include only a small selection of the events and achievements that stand out as milestones for APC and its members.

1985 – PeaceNet, a network of peace activists, was established in the USA as a project of the Foundation for the Arts of Peace, through the cooperation of four organisations: Community Data Processing, Center for Innovative Diplomacy, Ark Foundation, and Foundation for the Arts of Peace. – GreenNet was founded in the UK to develop electronic networking for environmental and civil society organisations.

1986 – EcoNet, a US-based environmental network created by the Farralones Institute, was acquired by PeaceNet. EcoNet/PeaceNet later became the Institute for Global Communications (IGC). – The idea of linking progressive networks for email and information sharing was formulated by Mark Graham and Mitra, founding members of PeaceNet/IGC and GreenNet. Working with emerging national networks, rather than expanding into other countries, was defined as a guiding principle from the outset.

1987 – WorkNet (which later became SANGONeT) was founded as an email network and bulletin board for the labour movement in South Africa. International connectivity was initially secured through GeoNet in London and soon after through GreenNet. – IGC in the US and GreenNet in the UK created a transatlantic computer link-up, to connect their separate electronic mail and computer conferencing networks. – Web Network’s earliest incarnation started up in Canada. Called NIRV Center, it was conceived at the 1986 Fate of the Earth Conference by a group of Toronto environmentalists, and was Canada’s first non-profit computer network serving non-profit and social change organisations. – The name Association for Progressive Communications (APC) was invented in the New York hotel-room of rock-star Peter Gabriel, by Mark Graham, Mitra and media activists. – The basis for an APC constitution was outlined at a meeting in IGC’s office in San Francisco.

1989 – Collaboration between APC and the United Nations began , in preparation for the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), more popularly known as the Earth Summit. As APC had the only international, civil society communications network in existence at that time, the UNCED secretariat published their information in APC conferences. They had no other way of distributing information so economically and so effectively. (The UN itself began distributing information by electronic means many years later). – WorkNet from South Africa, IGC, GreenNet and Alternex (the communications branch of IBASE, the Portuguese acronym of the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analysis) met at an Interdoc meeting in the Netherlands in 1989.

1990APC was founded by IGC (USA), GreenNet (UK), NordNet (Sweden), Web Networks (Canada), Alternex/IBASE (Brazil), Nicarao/CRIES (Nicaragua), and Pegasus (Australia). – The GnFido (GreenNet Fidonet) gateway at GreenNet provided the first means of exchanging email between email hosts in Africa and the rest of the world. By 1994, GnFido provided Internet gateway services to over 50 email hosts in Africa, Asia and Central and Eastern Europe. – Members of IGC visited Moscow and returned the following year to help Russian activists get GlasNet running, to facilitate the emerging civil society’s communication during the fall of communism in Russia.

1991 – Southern and Northern NGOs meeting in Nairobi identified email and the APC conferences as a tool for distance-lobbying the Earth Summit. Chasque, a network created by the Third World Institute (ITeM) in Uruguay, and IGC set up the first email and conference system running from the UN itself in New York, during a preparatory meeting for the Earth Summit. – A Fidonet gateway was set up by roving technician, Mike Jensen, at WorkNet/SANGONeT in South Africa, providing Internet mail connections to Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana. – The first meeting of APC partners in southern Africa was hosted by WorkNet/SANGONeT in Johannesburg, supported through a project with Web Networks and Alternatives (then CIDMAA) in Canada. – Chasque in Uruguay, GlasNet in Russia and ComLink in Germany joined the APC.

1992APC provided the first online communications centre for NGOs and UN delegates at a UN conference – the Rio Earth Summit. – In September, over 17,000 users in 94 countries were using APC networks. – INTERCOM in Ecuador became the eleventh APC member. – IGC hosted the first APC Council meeting in San Francisco.

1993APC facilitated electronic communications for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. – ComLink provided connectivity at the UN Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. – The APC Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) was established and began preparations for the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995). – GreenNet and Dutch group, Antenna, encouraged by Jagdish Parikh, established ‘Asialink’, a project providing start-up funding and technical support to small hosts in Asia working with social movements in their countries. – The Green Spider telecommunications network started up to link environmental civil society organisations in Hungary. – SANGONeT is the first African organisation to join APC.

1994APC and Uruguayan member Chasque provided APC services at the UN International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. – An APC cost-sharing project was launched, with the objective of reducing the expense to people in Africa and Asia of receiving and sending email. – Several APC members attend the Internet Society’s workshop for developing countries held in Prague. APC member staff acted as trainers and APC partner in the Czech Republic, Econnect provided logistical support for the workshop. – Web Networks hosted an APC Council meeting just outside Toronto. – The StrawberryNet Network was established in Romania, with the assistance of Green Spider.

1995APC received consultative (Category 1) status to the UN, in June. – NordNet from Sweden lead a group of local Danish communications activists in setting up electronic communications at the UN World Summit on Social Development (WSSD) in Copenhagen. For the first time Web browsers were available and the public were able to access an APC WSSD site. – A 40-woman team of APC communications experts provided connectivity and training to NGO participants at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, and – as part of Media Caucus – ensured that the issue of women and ICTs was placed on the UN Agenda. – APC technicians and training activists provided skills training at an informatics symposium hosted by Economic Commission for Africa in Ethiopia. – Alternex/IBASE hosted an APC Council Meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

1996 – SANGONeT hosted an APC-Africa-Women’s technical training in Johannesburg for women system operators. Now that Internet access was becoming more widely available in some parts of the continent, Fidonet systems operators were given skills to make the transition to Internet. – The first APC European Meeting was held in Slovenia. Other regional APC meetings were held in preparation for the 1997 APC Council meeting.

1997APC partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other international organisations to organise the Global Knowledge conference in Toronto. Web Networks, APC’s Canadian member, brought together the hundreds of NGOs using ICTs for international development participating physically and virtually using a Website and email. – Web Networks and APC publishes the influential Working Together Online , which documents the lessons and techniques gained through APC experience in online networking. – An APC Africa Strategy Development Meeting was held in Johannesburg with more than 35 participants from APC member and partner networks from all over Africa. A powerful statement from the meeting – the “Holy Family Communiqué” – outlined the position of development-oriented networks and information providers towards trends in private sector and donor investment in networking in Africa. – The APC mission was formalised at APC Council’s meeting in South Africa, hosted at Itala by SANGONeT.

1998APC’s Mexican network, LaNeta, hosted an APC Council meeting in Oaxaca, Mexico and an APC Europe Meeting was held in Nijmegen, Netherlands. – BlueLink, the information network of Bulgarian environmental organisations, was founded, inspired by Hungary’s Green Spider network.

1999 – The first “World APC Techie Conference” brought together technical directors from all over the APC community in Prague. – An APC – Central Europe meeting was held in Kwacany, Slovakia.

2000APC facilitated and provided consultation and research services for the “Access” track of the Action Summit at the second Global Knowledge conference in Kuala Lumpur. The Action Summit created a plan of action for the Global Knowledge partner organisations, which included various government-related development agencies, companies, and NGOs involved in the development and ICT field. – The APC WNSP co-coordinated a women’s network (WomenAction 2000) to bring an NGO perspective to the UN Beijing +5 review. – The first ever APC Betinho Communications Prize to recognise the socially meaningful use of ICTs was awarded to the Max Foundation, a life-saving online support network for the families of children suffering from leukaemia in Latin America, and host of the region’s first online bone marrow tissue registry. – The APC Action Areas for 2000-2001 emerged at the APC Council meeting in Visegrád, Hungary, hosted by Green Spider. – BlueLink from Bulgaria and Strawberry Net from Romania joined the APC.

References

1 Also see: Roberto Elissalde, “Need and Chance: APC in the Global South and the rise of some strong Southern members”, APC Annual Report 2000
2 Also see: Brian Murphy “The Founding of APC: Coincidences and Logical Steps in Global Civil Society Networking”, APC Annual Report 2000
3 Also see: Brian Murphy “Mike Jensen and the Code that stitched together the APC: The Pre-Internet Days and Early Efforts at Linking APC Nodes”, APC Annual Report 2000
4 Also see: Rory O’Brien “Enabling Civil Society Participation in Global Policy-Making: APC and the United Nations”, APC Annual Report 2000
5 Also see: Brian Murphy “The Founding of APC: Coincidences and Logical Steps in Global Civil Society Networking”, APC Annual Report 2000
6 Also see: Karen Banks “Fidonet: The ‘Critical Mass’ technology”, APC Annual Report 2000
7 Also see: APC WNSP “Women’s Networking and ICTs: The character, achievements and challenges past and present of the APC Women’s Networking Support Programme”, APC Annual Report 2000
8 Also see: Rory O’Brien “Enabling Civil Society Participation in Global Policy-Making: APC and the United Nations”, APC Annual Report 2000
9 http://www.idrc.ca/books/848/index_e.html
10 http://www.apc.org/english/about/apcafrica/holy.htm
11 http://www.apc.org/english/about/mission/

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