NGOs and the Creation of the Internet

Abstract: Peter Willetts will argue the Internet was established by the pioneering work of peace, human rights and environmental non- governmental organisations (NGOs) in the 1980s.

November 2009 is being widely celebrated as the 40th anniversary of the birth of the Internet, when three computers at different American universities were linked together. However, this Pentagon-funded project, ARPANET, only made minor contributions to the technology of the Internet. The related story that the Internet was planned as an American military command and control system that could survive a
nuclear attack is no more than a colourful myth.

The defining aspect of the Internet is the provision of public and open access for global communications. Pioneering computer experts working for NGOs drove the innovation and created an open network.
This was achieved before the first web page was written.

Until NGOs intervened, there was no more than a disconnected set of separate government and commercial networks. NGOs made the global connections and gave us the revolution in public communications.

Peter Willetts is a Visiting Professor of Global Politics in the Department of International Politics, City University London.

November 11, 4:30pm, room 02DK02 (Duke of Kent)

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