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Global Scoutnet history

The first attempts at using electronic telecommunications for scouting date to the '80es. At that time, the only telecomms technology available to anyone who owned a modem, outside the academic world, was that of Bulletin Board Systems; in short, BBS. Most such systems were in the USA, but a few ones were in Italy, too.

Even the big commercial on-line systems in USA, such as Compuserve, had forums dedicated to scouting.

At almost the same time, on BITNET was born the SCOUTS-L mailing list, which is still very strong despite the death of BITNET. It is currently available to all Internet users.

The last place where people could talk via computers was Usenet. This network, at the time, was very much different from what is now. Most connections were on dial-up connections, using UUCP and slow modems. It was much more expensive than today's ubiquitous NNTP links using TCP/IP over high-speed leased lines. Even on Usenet, scouts made their presence felt, on the rec.scouting newsgroup.

For this reason, the number of people involved in "Electronic Scouting" was necessarily low. This didn't prevent them from planning how to improve their situaton.

In the second half of the '80es, most BBS started to link into "networks"; a group of BBS which share their message areas, allowing people in different towns (or countries!) to engage in discussions in the same message area, devoted to specific topics.

At the start of the '90es, there were many such networks aimed at scouting. A network called "Scoutnet" was born in Italy, another network by the same name was born between Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands, while in North America they had "Stay in Scouting Network", and so on.

At this time, the European Region of WOSM started to guess the inherent possibilites of the medium, and for this reason in December 1994 it organized a seminar in Courriere, Belgium, titled "Building the Global Village - new strategies for multi-cultural learning". All the important actors on the "electronic scouting" stage took part in this seminar, at least the european ones. If you want to know more about that seminar, request the file GLOBVILL.ZIP (23K) from any italian BBS belonging to Scoutnet; you can also find it at ftp.scoutnet.org/Scoutnet/Scoutnet_Internazionale/; part of the file is in italian (my report, for instance), but most of it is in english.

One of the most important results of that seminar was the decision to merge all these networks into a single one; after an intense brainstorming session, we decided to call it "Global Scoutnet". Some time later, the North American network joined us, too.

At that time, we had about 150 bulletin boards linked in this network, and we reached many continents. However, we had no real link with the rest of the telecomms networks.

The first "Global Coordinator" was Andrea Baitelli. His short mandate only involved organizing the first democratic elections for the Global Scoutnet Coordinator. In the meanwhile, he also registered an Internet Domain for Global Scoutnet, that is scoutnet.org

In September 1995, Daniel Saxer was elected Global Coordinator. During his mandate, he also developed an internet site, www.scout.net. In time, this became his priority and he relinquished Global Scoutnet. He never realized the full potential of a network spanning all available telecommunications media!

On the contrary, in Germany and Italy integration between BBS technology and the Internet was proving to be a winner concept. It is not a coincidence that while Scoutnet thrived in these two countries, it declined in most of the others.

In June 1997, Daniel Saxer proposed a radical change in the structure of Global Scoutnet, which was not accepted by the Coordinators of Global Scoutnet. So he left and founded a totally separate organization called "GSO". GSO has no relationship whatsoever with Global Scoutnet.

In December 1997, I was elected Global Coordinator. At about the same time, the Country Coordinators Council resumed its role as the governing body of Global Scoutnet. Many of the international links lost in the previous years were re-established. Most important, we started work on integrating BBS networks and Internet beyond what was already happening in Italy and Germany.

Presently, Global Scoutnet is the only dual-technology scout computer network, since we use both Internet and a BBS network; this means we have the highest potential audience. We currently offer conferences which can be accessed either as mailing lists or as newsgroups (via Internet) or as Echomail (from the many BBS in the network). We operate a gateway which provides free Email access even to BBS users who aren't on the Internet. Moreover, our file areas are accessible both on bulletin board systems and on the Internet.

In the future, we aim at expanding in developing countries, too. Even where Internet access is too expensive, we have the technologies for cheap telecommunications.

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Last update: 04.05.2003
Disclaimer: Global Scoutnet has nothing to do with "GSO"; any resemblance with their name is an unfortunate accident.
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