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Early Mountain Networking + Initiatives + People

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How did we get to where we are today?

Mountain research, education and sustainability efforts have been utilizing computer networking since before the earliest days of the public Internet.  Beginning with early telecommunications technologies and the Mountain Forum in the 1990s, administrators and officials, researchers, educators, community leaders and field workers have been using evolving Internet, social media, mobile devices, many networking tools, platforms and applications to further the shared goals, objectives, learning and on the ground work of mountain communities for local-global sustainability. 

This section highlights just a very few examples of early mountain networking initiatives and individuals that helped bring us to where we are today.   There was so much more.

Mountain Forum

Mountain Forum was hosted by The Mountain Institute (TMI) an international non-governmental organization with its headquarters in West Virginia, US.  TMI provided a means of communication between members of global organizations and other members with no regional affiliation. Technical support and communications services for all participants were provided by the Information Server Node, also hosted by TMI.  Financial support for the forum’s core activities was provided by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

The Mountain Forum was active from 1994 until about 2008, riding on the innovations in communication that became available with the Internet.  After an exciting decade of forging new connections, it slowly faded into more specialized networking groups, and now the Mountain Partnership at FAO is the last remaining partner organization.

Andrew Taber, FAO, former Exec. Director of the Mountain Institute.   

Elizabeth A. Byers, Former Mountain Forum Director.


CONDESAN InfoAndina network, created in 1993, like the Mountain Forum, is no longer active/online.  It pioneered implementation of electronic forums over more than a decade, for the discussion and debate of issues and processes of regional relevance, evolving hand in hand with new information and communication technologies, as well as trends in virtual exchanges,

to facilitate access and use of information that contributes to the creation of knowledge and decision-making for the sustainable management of natural resources of the Andean region.

Knowledge Networking for Global Sustainability New Modes of Cyberpartnering

Nazli Choucri, National Academy of Engineering. Information Systems and the Environment, The National Academies Press, 2001.

This 2001 paper introduced the Global System for Sustainable Development (GSSD), an Internet-based knowledge-networking system predicated on an internally consistent framework for organizing knowledge and for guiding action pertaining to the broad domain of sustainability. As a distributed system, GSSD combines the power and resources of the Internet with new strategies for knowledge-sharing on a global basis

GSSD also serves as the core platform for the Global Partnership on Cyberspace for Sustainability, which was introduced at the Fifth Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, May 1997, and subsequently at the Special Session of the General Assembly, June 1997, known as “Earth Summit +5.”

The GSSD is an adaptive, interactive system for knowledge networking, knowledge management, and knowledge sharing for use in conjunction with Internet resources. Its goals are (1) to define the dimensions and dilemmas of changing from current policies and strategies based on imperatives of growth, (2) to identify policies and strategies that facilitate social and environmental sustainability, and (3) to track the range of policy responses nationally and internationally.

GSSD is the product of collaborative research involving contributions from several research centers at MIT, notably the Technology and Development Program, the Department of Political Science, the Center for International Studies, the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and the Laboratory for Computer Science.

Dave Hughes

Dave Hughes (the Cursor Cowboy, 1928-2021) brings wireless Internet to Everest Base Camp at age 75.

In the spring of 2001 Dave got an unusual e-mail from a Tsering Sherpa who lives in Namche, Nepal, 15,000 feet up on the slopes of 29,000 foot Mount Everest.   Dave’s reputation for extending the Internet by wireless to remote places in the world – Mongolia, Latin America, Alaska, Wales had reached one of the most remote places on earth.

The email – in tolerable English – explained that he – Tsering Sherpa, having visited America and seeing the Internet in use had returned to his home in Namche, Nepal and set up a satellite-internet-feed Cybercafe in Namche.  Namche was a stop over Sherpa village for both Everest (and other peaks) climbers, their supporters, and those who just trekked up the Khumba Valley through Namche to as far as 19,000 feet to photograph and experience the mountains. But once they reached Namche they were out of contact, even with cell phones, with the world below.