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The Internet Fiesta: Today and Tomorrow

By Patrice Husson
patrice@isoc.lu

In March 2001 Luxembourg celebrated its first Internet Fiesta. While this was the fourth year of the event, it was the first year of existence for the young Internet Society chapter of Luxembourg, which played an active role in promoting the event. Our first performance was rather modest compared with our initial expectations. This year's single-venue event-a commercial mall on the Krichberg plateau-opened on Thursday, 1 March, and closed a few days later, on Saturday (the mall is closed on Sundays). In the end, what happened in the mall was not only exciting but also truly representative of the state of the Internet in Luxembourg. The Fiesta combined online demonstrations with 12 booths, a number of events and conferences, and press coverage and ended with a festive night of food and drink. First Tuesday Luxembourg appeared on Thursday, and there were demos of cyberbanking and the electronic euro; appearances by members of various nongovernmental organizations, which are quite active in Luxembourg; public authorities; educators, and ITC vendors. The initial spirit of the Internet Fiesta was respected: all participants joined together to bring manpower, computers, broadband access, free event space, and free press coverage to build a common, noncommercial, and freely available event.

During preparation, it took some time to explain the concept to our partners. But with the success of the Fiesta, we were able to demonstrate the pertinence of the approach. Next year it will be easier to entice other participants and to increase the number of events. For a young, enthusiastic, pennyless organization, it was sometimes difficult to explain the practical limitations on our ability to coordinate the event. This first year, our presence was mainly local, though the networking has real potential for involving the public. Outside conventional shows, the international Fiesta can facilitate uses of the Internet that correspond with societal demands. For example, Luxembourg welcomes a number of immigrants and expatriots from all around the world. By organizing Webcasts with other festivities, it is possible to show how simple Webcam sessions can facilitate family communications and connections to cultural roots. We had such an event scheduled with Portugal, but unfortunately, we lost the Portuguese link just before the Fiesta.

Central resource. The international Fiesta committee-or any sort of central resource sharing-could enhance the benefits by expanding the opportunities for such demonstrations and by providing common logistics such as streaming services, broadband hubs, and archiving, which facilitate operations, broadcasting, and archive sessions for real-time and on-demand access. Without such a common hub, it is difficult to pull off a convincing public demo, especially one that compares in quality with what the public sees every day on conventional TV channels.

Scheduling. Another major concern is the scheduling of the event. The time period chosen for this year wasn't ideal for Luxembourg and strongly limited participation. Schools were closed and many children and their parents were away. Creating a set of fixed dates that are logically timed for each area in which the Fiesta appears would benefit the event tremendously.

Putting the Internet in the real world. As our experience demonstrated, the public is interested in the services the Internet offers. People not using the Internet-our primary target audience-want to see for themselves that computers don't bite, and they want information about cost, practical limits, and options for using the technology in a noncommercial environment. The Fiesta should focus every year on a select number of areas in which the Internet can be applied, such as the Internet and the environment, the Internet and the arts, and the Internet and development. Having a series of themes planned ahead of time will help stimulate comparisons between local situations and experiences and will show examples of best practices.

The challenge of the Fiesta. With a permanent central resource, a regular schedule, and the definition of major yearly themes, the Internet Fiesta can become the real link between cyberspace and the real world, showing both the general public and those who are not connected how the society is evolving and how the Internet creates practical advantages for their day-to-day lives. It is important to maintain the original spirit of a noncommercial and open organization.

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