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Arguments for a moratorium on the construction of a community information utility

By Laurence I. Press

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 17 No. 12, Pages 674-678

In this article the author urges a prudent and decentralized approach to the question of the design and desirability of computerized community information utilities. Before accepting the inevitability and desirability of this or any technology, we should: (1) be sure of the feasibility (internally and externally) of what is proposed; (2) project and perhaps wait for changes in complementary techniques; (3) evaluate current and projected supplementary techniques; (4) establish the existence of demand for what is proposed; (5) take steps to involve a representative group of ultimate users in systems design, and (6) carefully think through possible side effects on man and his world view. Current proposals for community information utilities are examined in this framework, and the conclusion is drawn that society is not yet in a position to justify either the construction of an information utility in a prototype community or the acceptance of a policy in favor of its widespread implementation.

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