The man credited with getting tens of thousands of United States schools hooked up to the Internet wants his idea to go global.
John Gage founded Net Day in 1995, which identified schools not yet connected to the Internet and called for parents to hook them up. He spoke to about 700 people at the State of the World Forum in San Francisco yesterday (Oct 29).
Mr. Gage was one of five people involved in a panel discussion on "digital apartheid," a term coined to describe the difference between those with access to the Internet, and those without it.
After the first State of the World Forum in 1995, John Gage created web pages calling for people to volunteer to hook their local schools up to the Internet.
"In 1995 we called for first everyone in California, to go out on March the 9th, 1996, and they did. They went out, they bought wire, and went to the schools. And if the principal stood in the doorway, they picked the principal up and moved him out of the way. They went in and they wired the school. One hundred thousand volunteers - 4,000 schools in California, wired in one day," Mr. Gage said.
They then did it again at the end of October in 1996, and now about 70 or 80% of schools in the United States have access to the Internet.
But Mr. Gage is not content to stop there. "There are 103 nations at this forum. We're going to build this same database for every school in the world. But remember this is easy. We don't do the work. We don't go to Morocco and Marrakech and put in the wire. All we do is point out that a school in Marrakech is not connected and then let things take their course. And that course is you [the parents]…who go and connect it.
"This idea is about information made accessible to everyone, that then generates local completely distributed activity. That's the future. Making political activity happen within the institutions that matter the most to children and to parents... And that's the power of beginning to use this distributed information system - the Internet - not only to let us participate as shopkeepers, as readers and writers, but to let us participate as citizens."
To demonstrate the philosophy, Mr. Gage and Oracle Corporation's senior vice-president, Marc Benioff, took several delegates to San Francisco's inner city George Mascone Elementary School yesterday, and hooked 50 computers donated by Oracle up to the Internet.