Alongside the development of virtual communities of users, we are witnessing and impressive growth of what might be called, academic "associationism" and "integrationism". An evidence of this trend is the proliferation of many kinds of cooperative networks and associations of individuals and institutions, which do not yet function in a virtual environment.
Academic "associationism" has, to a large extent, been furthered by various international organizations. UNESCO initiated in 1991, the UNITWIN Programme (University Twinning), a worldwide program of University cooperation, encompassing all fields of knowledge, with the aim of promoting the development of networks for academic cooperation and integration, to facilitate the international transfer and management of information and knowledge, with a view to a more sustainable development. In 1994, the Commission of the European Union started the ALFA Programme, to support the development of networks for academic cooperation, between Europe and Latin America.
The "non-virtual" communities which have emerged from UNITWIN, those which are emerging from ALFA, and others which are taking shape outside them, more spontaneously, are of particular importance to the INTERNET, since they are sources of potential users, starting points for the development of virtual communities, and sources of information resources and contents which could add significant value to the electronic networks.
Although the training of users and the development of virtual communities in the INTERNET has been relatively spontaneous, very valuable efforts are also being made to support them in a more systematic fashion, as can be seen from several papers discussed in INET'93 and INET'94. The work done by the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, through its NISP/Mailbase programme in Europe, and by the USIS Working Group of TERENA are a very good example. Other developments, at a more specific level, include: UNINET (Norway), EDUCATE (Sweden and other european countries), ELSA (Europe) and CICNET's Rural Datafication Project (USA), University of Hawaii (USA). The experiences of community networks and the Free-Nets, of a broader scope, are also very useful for the indicated purpose.
Furthermore, organized efforts have also been made for the purpose of monitoring the evolution of the vast structure of networks' connectivity, users, services and resources the "Matrix" worldwide,which has been furthered mainly by the valuable research and information work carried out by Matrix Information and Development Services (MIDS).
All these efforts (virtual and non-virtual, user-oriented and network- oriented) should be coordinated in order to facilitate the incorporation, training and development of new users and new communities into the INTERNET and into the Matrix in general, thereby adding value to networks and to the academic work at the same time.