Dialogues in Cyberspace Village
Marianne Borra has lived in Mozambique for 12 years. Now that she is back in Holland, in the MSc Management of Agricultural Knowledge Systems programme (MAKS), she has discovered Internet. My own curiosity and basic understanding of the instructions led me to figure out how to use the system", says Marianne. I got myself a private account by asking for it. It is strange: you get instructions for the library and the computers there, but nobody tells you anything about Internet. I had to do it myself. Now I receive newsletters through Internet. I can connect with the University of Maputo in Mozambique. This will really help me when I go back."
MAKS student Nelson Mango from Kenya says, In the process of being curious, I learned of it. Before coming to Wageningen, I had never heard of Internet, but here a classmate taught me how to create and compose for E-mail. That is as far as I go in using the system. We have not had any official introduction from the university regarding how to use Internet. But together with friends who have their own accounts, I can discuss events in Kenya with compatriots in the United States and Japan. Otherwise it is very difficult to get news about East Africa."
Song Yiching, a Chinese PhD student in Communications and Innovations Studies, uses the electronic highway, There are only a couple people who I know with access to E-mail in China."
With them I can talk about general things in China. What I hear from CNN is mostly anti-China, so it is good to have an opportunity to contact others to know what is going on."
I have contact through the Internet with my home university in Brazil", says Rodrigo Ozorio, MSc student in Aquaculture. My parents live near the university, so I can send short messages to them through the department of Biological Sciences of Santa Ursula University in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil has its own network called Brasnet. Believe it or not: there is a special branch for jokes and a user dialogue network. Brazilian researchers around the world can share experiences and even perform meetings via their computers. One of my most interesting dialogues was during the World Cup. I had the opportunity to join a round table discussion through the Internet regarding Brazil's chances of winning!."
Hari Adi, Tropical Forestry student from Indonesia, receives several messages per week via E-mail. News from my country takes a long time to reach me here. Internet is just starting in Indonesia. The Institute of Forestry is the only place I know of where they have it, but I keep in contact with friends who are studying at universities in England and the USA."
The issues of who has access and how to use the system remain stumbling blocks for some students such as Simon Levine from Great Britain. When Simon began his MAKS studies last September, he would have liked to have had personal access to the Internet. After hearing of a one day course on the ins and outs of the Internet given to the departing students from MAKS, he asked whether he could sit in.
The fact that I had to ask if I could join in, shows that no one has been really encouraged to learn about the Internet. I think that there are a lot of people who don't know anything. If you consider the fact that the people were invited to take that information course within six weeks of leaving the Netherlands, it would seem to me that the university really didn't want them to have access any earlier."
Kees Penders, Information and Data Systems Manager for the Sector Agriculture and Society, is responsible for access to the Internet in his sector.
He proudly states that, The computer centre is working hard to achieve the goal of providing every student with access to the Internet. At present there are negotiations between the WAU computer department and the Banyanvines people in the United States. We want to obtain licences for 6,000 WAU users (students) on the Internet. The criterion for being granted access through the university, is that you must be an employee or a student of the WAU. Students only have to ask at their departments, and if the department agrees, we are then requested to provide that student with access to a log in name."
It would seem that no one should feel guilty or worried about using the system for personal ends or to gain information from back home. Penders admits, Everybody knows that people might use the system provided by the WAU for communications with family or friends. In reality this is not a big problem and nothing can be done about it anyway. The university pays a yearly sum for having access to the Internet, so individual transactions actually do not cost anything. The only problem which can occur by giving every one access is that it generates a lot of local traffic which can make the system function more slowly. I also think we could do better on advertising how to use the system, providing information on what the possibilities are. This of course costs man power which means money."
Luckily for foreign students, the university still sees the information super highway as an important path to follow, despite economic cutbacks. Hopefully information campaigns will also be regarded as imperative to accompany the new technology. By making the world a smaller place not only research, but living far from home, will be made easier.