Masthead CMC Magazine / April 1, 1996
 Building Democracy Online, by Scott Aikens and Erna Koch

Cons of the E-Democracy Project

The direct audience is small. The number of people with access to computers in the home is still small compared to the population at large. In this way, an e-democracy project (or any other program that requires use of high technology) can be viewed as exclusive. However, private use of the Internet is reportedly growing by 10% every month, according to some sources. Additionally, in most states, libraries and often state government are involved in efforts to provide public access to network resources via free terminals in libraries and other public areas.

Uncertain future. It is unclear how such efforts can be supported financially around the country without the direct participation of government. Many freenets are supported in part by federal telecommunications grants that may not be available in the future. To remain accessible for free, e-democracy projects will have to determine sources of non-political support. The E-Democracy Project attracted financial and other support in part because it was the first forum of its type in the nation. One of the biggest questions organizers are now struggling over is how to sustain a volunteer effort like this after the incentive to be "first" is gone.

Access to the Minnesota E-Democracy Debates was not freely available. At the time of the 1994 debates, there were no public access terminals available for public use at libraries or extension offices. Therefore, people without access to a computer and modem at home or work did not have direct access via any other route . [This problem is likely to be remedied by 1996 in Minnesota.] ^

Section excerpted, with permission, from the prerelease draft of "State and Local Strategies for Connecting Communities" by the Benton Foundation and the Center for Policy Alternatives.

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