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Creator of Internet takes part in UN-backed webcast on volunteerism

Creator of Internet takes part in UN-backed webcast on volunteerism

The British scientist credited with inventing the Internet in 1989 has paid tribute to the thousands of people around the world who contributed to making the World Wide Web, which he calls a collaborative venture and a "creation of volunteers," a United Nations agency said today.

"In developing the Web as a volunteer, I was not alone," Tim Berners-Lee told a webcast at a UN event on Sunday in Geneva via video conference link from Boston, where he directs the World Wide Web Consortium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to a statement issued today by the UN Volunteers programme (UNV), Mr. Berners-Lee said he had launched the idea for a global web by putting out some software on the Internet. "It was picked up by people, who just like me, were really doing it on the side," he said. "The Web is a grassroots thing. I was not the only person at all - by a very long way - to put in volunteer time."

Mr. Berners-Lee was answering email questions and addressing comments from a live audience in Geneva during the UN Open Days, held under the theme of the UN International Year of Volunteers 2001. During the event, UNV Executive Coordinator Sharon Capeling-Alakija referred to Mr. Berners-Lee as the "number one volunteer in cyberspace, because of the enormous gift he gave the world in the World Wide Web."

The webcast was sponsored by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in cooperation with UNV and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Mr. Berners-Lee was working at CERN when he invented the World Wide Web.

The idea of involving volunteers in the effort to assist the developing countries through the use of the latest technological advances and the Internet has been actively promoted by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. In his Millennium Report, he proposed the creation of UNITeS, the UN Information Technology Service, to channel the creative energies, skills and solidarity of volunteers around the world to collaborate with people in the South to improve their capacity to use information and communications technologies.

In key fields such as health, education, income generation, gender equity, environment or humanitarian aid, volunteers working under the UNV-coordinated UNITeS programme aim to bridge the digital divide "one person at a time."