Sunday, March 12, 2006

FWIW: The Early History of GovAccess

Just as a matter of [obscure] history, I first began “GovAccess” as a list-serv, based at The WELL – the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link, notorious at the time as being the net’s foremost center of unfettered dialogue-about-anything. I began it after concluding most of a year’s efforts that assisted the successful passage of the 1993 state legislation, Assembly Bill 1624 (AB1624, Debra Bowen), that made California the first state in the nation to place its already-computerized public legislative information (and more), on the Internet, open to unlimited fee-free public access.
My first posting to GovAccess was on Jan.18, 1994, beginning:

“This starts a new series of online Updates and occasional panic-mode Action Alerts regarding specific legislative and regulatory efforts to assure modern [online, computer-assisted] access to public government records -- legislative, executive and judicial; federal, state and local. Most of these postings will fit on one or two printed pages; some will be noticeably longer. …”

Note that, at that time, most of the world still hadn’t even heard of the Internet, much less the web.

In fact, a
history of the World Wide Web states, “Marc Andreesen ... a graduate student at the University of Illinois' NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications), led a team of graduate students [who], in February of 1993, released the first alpha version of his "Mosaic for X" … browser for the Web implemented for UNIX. In August of 1993, Andreesen and his fellow programmers released free versions of their Mosaic for Macintosh and Windows … for the first time, a world wide web client, with a relatively consistent and easy to use point-and-click GUI (Graphical User Interface), was implemented on the three of the most popular operating systems available at the time. By September of 1993, world wide web traffic constituted 1% of all traffic on the NSF backbone.”

After several iterations, the list-serv ReadMe descriptoid for GovAccess stated:
GovAccess irregularly distributes ongoing information, action-alerts and often flaming advocacy. It's free - worth at least every penny you pay for it.

GovAccess concerns computer-assisted and technology-related:
(1) *effective* citizen participation in the process of our own governance,
(2) protections and implications regarding constitutional civil liberties,
(3) citizen-access to federal, state and/or local government - access to representatives, officials, agencies and computerized government records,
(4) government access to and records about citizens - covert and overt, and
(5) federal, state and local legislation-in-process, statutes, regulations and court cases and decisions pertaining to these issues.

GovAccess postings come from (1) solicited and unsolicited contributors, (2) relevant items spotted in other lists and (3) self-generated items authored by list-owner Jim Warren.

Identity of contributors will be protected upon request, within legal limits and at the discretion of the list-owner.

Only of possible historical interest, it appears that the several years of postings to that original GovAcces list-serv are now archived by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Today, “the times” make it obvious that these topics surely need more citizen action.

Oherwise, how can we in a democratic republic function as responsible citizens, without timely access to comprehensive information about our government’s operations, on which to base reasoned decisions? And votes! In its absence, we can be nothing more than ignorant peasants, to be guided by the propagandists of whomever is in power.