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Russia: Foundation Suggests Creation Of 'Digital Bridge' With U.S.

  • Frank Csongos



Washington, 11 March 1989 (RFE/RL) -- A U.S. foundation has proposed an ambitious project to link the United States and Russia through the use of sophisticated computers and broadcast satellites.

The idea was suggested by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and outlined at a seminar in Washington on Monday.

It envisions a "digital bridge" between the two countries to promote the free flow of information, democratic ideas and market economy principles. A digital system uses advance technology that processes data and images.

University professor Russell Neuman said the project would be a joint private and public sector partnership. He said it would link the Russian Eurasian landmass and could be used as a leapfrog strategy to connect and upgrade the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors of the Russian economy.

"Technologies don't just happen," the center said in presenting the 24-page proposal. "Let's acknowledge that public funds can play a crucial role in launching new technologies, new infrastructures. The Internet was launched with public funds as was the interstate highway system."

The Internet, the world's largest computer network, grew out of a U.S. Defense Department project. The building of the interstate highway system began four decades ago, linking thousands of cities and towns across the United States.

The study said this bridge could also represent a key element of foreign policy for both the United States and the Russian Federation.

The study says: "Too many Russians believe that America seeks to keep it from becoming a strong nation. Too many Americans still see in Russia the past Soviet nuclear threat. The best way to root out the vestiges of antagonism in the minds of Russian and American publics is to declare and promote a partnership in building the infrastructure of the future. The message to Russia must be clear: America wants you to be part of our future."

The study said the current Russian telecommunications sector is mismanaged and outdated. It said there are not enough telephone lines and that more advanced services such as electronic mail (e-mail) are still in their infancy.

As for Russia's electronic media such as television, the study noted it has gone from a totally state-supported enterprise to a model based on commercial advertising. With it, it said, came "contract killings of top executives" and a concentration of ownership.

The study said Russia is committed to re-establishing itself as a global power and the American reaction to this aspiration appears to be polite indifference. And it said American indifference is misperceived by Russians as a deliberate attempt to hold Russia back.

"We feel the time is right for some new initiatives," the study concluded. "We built and dismantled Berlin Walls and Iron Curtains. Time for a new construction -- a digital bridge."
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