A Tower of Babel on the Internet? The World Bank’s Development Gateway: Summary
News||18 June 2001|update 23|
Preserve internet pluralism: contest the Development Gateway
On 1 July the World Bank plans to launch a major new internet initiative, the Development Gateway. This has multiple elements, but basically aims to be a supersite on all development issues. With almost unbelievable ambition, the Bank's president, James Wolfensohn, has instructed his staff to create a site which contains links to material giving all perspectives on 130 development topics and aims to serve an audience of everyone interested in development.
The Gateway's crazy editorial proposition could be summarised as "from the Adam Smith Institute to the Zapatistas: comprehensive development information for academics, ambassadors and activists".
Some argue that such an initiative will collapse under its own weight, will be ignored by web surfers and so does not represent a major problem. But the Gateway will be heavily promoted (the Bank is hiring a public relations company) and will compete with existing sites in the development field. Unless people are made aware of its origins and approach, the site may appear independent of the Bank and to be a useful, neutral and well-connected web entry point.
A number of civil society groups have been following the Bank's Gateway plans since details emerged just over a year ago. Many have fed in their comments and criticisms on the Bank's plans. Groups in South Africa and Latin America which recently met Gateway staff have concluded that they will not cooperate with it.
Whilst some marginal changes have been made in response to criticism, the Bank is stubbornly refusing to engage with anyone who questions the Gateway's basic logic and scope. The new briefing A Tower of Babel on the Internet? The World Bank's Development Gateway sets out the key problems with the Gateway, drawing on comments from a number of civil society groups. It recommends that people who want to maintain diverse internet coverage on development issues should contest this World Bank scheme using on- and off-line tactics.
Ten major problems with the Development Gateway
The Bretton Woods Project looks forward to collaborating with other groups on how to respond to the Gateway and on how to move forward with better ways to aggregate information among civil society groups.
Alex Wilks, Coordinator, Bretton Woods Project. April 2001
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Spanish version coming soon.
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Published: 18 June 2001 , last edited: 27 May 2010
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