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DIAC 94 - Organizer's view

DIAC'94 - An Organizer's View

By Coralee Whitcomb

There was a lot more to DIAC than two days filled with excellent program on the National Information Infrastructure. At the outset of the planning process, we identified a number of objectives for this project to serve. These were:

  1. To create relationships with local, non-technical constituencies that will be affected by the NII; K-12 education, libraries, community media, local government, health and human services, labor, and community organizations.

  2. To develop an awareness in the local media and universities of the CPSR expertise and involvement in the NII issues.

  3. To develop a solid set of educational materials that can be shared by all chapters and distributed nationally to further educate the American public about the techno/socio implications of the NII.

I believe we accomplished all three goals. We called and wrote every professional association we could find from the list above. We invited them to be endorsers, gave them free passes to attend, attended meetings, and created friendships. Through these efforts the Boston chapter now has invitations to speak at several of their conferences, to collaborate on various statewide projects, and has become a non-intimidating colleague in the pursuit of greater technological equity.

The local press was keenly aware of the conference. Most of the attending reporters requested press passes before the press release was sent out. A reporter from the Boston Herald was so inspired by a follow-up telephone call that he wrote a piece on DIAC minutes before deadline on Friday even though he was not able to actually attend. We've had a number of guest speaker engagements at local university (including Harvard) as the year-end "big- picture" wrap-up.

CPSR has generally aspired to have expertise exist within chapters all over the country. Ideally, we would have speakers at the ready to serve local needs and sources available for quotes to the local press. The main drawback was our limited resources for developing the materials necessary to produce these local "experts". Over the past year, through many efforts, these materials now exist. Anyone can come up to speed on the current state of the NII discussion from CPSR materials alone. For the first time, we now have a real foundation on which to build a nationwide speaker's bureau.

Organizing the DIAC conference gave the Boston Chapter the motivation and vehicle through which we have now become a highly visible and effective player on the local level. I would urge other chapters to consider organizing conferences similar to the DIAC conference as a means of developing a local identity and vital role in serving the CPSR agenda. Most of the NII action takes place on the coasts. We received literally hundreds of inqueries for materials from people desperate to know more but unable to make the trip. Interest is high everywhere. The topic is hot and there simply cannot be too many opportunities to join the discussion. Beside program material, we have developed a set of "how to" material for organizing events. The Boston experience shows that CPSR is the perfect organization to transport the NII decision making process beyond the beltway to the America it will serve.

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