Battle for Internet visibility moves forward

12 December 2000

The Bretton Woods Project has continued to work with others to contest the World Bank’s plan for a new Global Development Gateway (GDG). As discussed in previous Bretton Woods Updates, this is a plan for a global, multi-stakeholder supersite on development issues which would included edited guides to analysis of over 100 development topics. As it is one of Mr Wolfensohn’s top priorities it is not subject to the belt-tightening that is afflicting the rest of the institution, and now has between 25 and 40 Bank staff working on it.

Many criticisms were again raised during a six week official e-consultation exercise on this initative but Bank President Wolfensohn brushed these aside, saying he would move ahead with “constructive groups which want to experiment with us”. A wide range of people raised concerns about the Bank’s plans. David Ellerman, adviser to the Bank’s chief economist, said that the Bank was trying to create an internet “monopoly”. Lilly Evans, who worked on knowledge management for British Petroleum, urged the team: “to abandon the pursuit of a grand database solution and go for a flexible local search facility”, pointing out that agreeing a single common database/index for development material was unworkable and undesirable. Wai Leng-Wong of raised a series of questions about the technology chosen by the Bank, and whether the Bank was really in a position to “ensure vibrancy, balance and accuracy in information flow”.

The Bretton Woods Project is working with others to devise further strategies to counter this initative which could seriously undermine the development of pluralistic and diverse internet sites. At the same time the Project is discussing with others more proactive ways for civil society groups to harness the internet and email to produce and share information.

Global Knowledge