The EVU Cybercafe at the European Vegetarian Union Congress, Widnau, July 1999
Vegetarianismfrom European Vegetarian, Issue 1/2000
Vegetarianism on the Internet took another big step forward at Widnau thanks to the cybercafe at the 7th EVU Congress being held for the first time in Switzerland.
The cybercafe had both a computer room, with ten top quality PCs, and a cafe serving excellent vegan food and drink. The computers were in a separate room as drinks and keyboards do not always mix too well, but The room is directly adjacent to the food and drink area making for a very pleasant relaxing atmosphere.
All ten computers were connected to the Internet 24 hours per day for the week of the congress, made possible by the generous support of a local Internet Service Provider, openoffice.ch, which gave the congress a completely free link via a radio connection to their server.
The computers were provided by another local firm, NEWA Computers, who installed the entire network for a very modest fee. NEWA normally provides computer training and sales in Widnau. This wonderful support from the local computer businesses was organised by Sigrid De Leo, EVU Secretary, who lives in this beautiful part of Switzerland.
With all the equipment and Internet connection in place, Renato Pichler, president of the Swiss Vegetarian Union and EVU Deputy Secretary ( who happens to be a computer professional) set up all the terminals to display the EVU Congress web page as soon as any user opens Netscape. There were links from there to most of the facilities that congress attendees needed during the week.
The EVU webmaster is Andreas Moser, from Germany. He was on hand in the cybercafe all week to help everyone with the software. On the first day of the congress he ran a tutorial session for beginners which gave them off to a great start in making the most of the cybercafe. This was so successful that the ten terminals were rarely enough to cope with the demand.
The computers were put to a variety of uses, perhaps the most common being people reading their emails from friends and relations who could not be here themselves. Some could read their email from their usual service, such as aol.com or hotmail.com - those without personal access could make use of IVUMail using an address at firstname.lastname@example.org .
IVUMail is available from the International Vegetarian Union website and is being used by many members to keep in touch from anywhere in the world.
There was also discussion on many email discussion lists allowing those at the congress to send information to whole groups of people around the world.
Several speakers at the congress used the cybercafe to write final drafts of their talks in the lecture hall, and to print out copies for people requesting them. Some of these reports were then emailed to other parts of the world for instant distribution to their members.
Probably the biggest use of the cybercafe was for surfing the World Wide Web - the cybercafe became a library with access to an almost infinite quantity of information. Visitors used this for anything from following up on the information in the lectures to checking the railway timetables to get home again.
One remaining project for the cybercafe was a Europe-wide 'live chat' session - anyone was able to join in a real-time discussion with those in the cybercafe. In theory anyone around the world could participate but, according to the time zones, in some areas people had to be up at the early hours of the morning. The live chat session was planned for the last day of the congress.
The cybercafe has been staffed by Renato Pichler and Andi Moser, mentioned above, with some help from myself, John Davis, webmaster of IVU. It was a fascinating experience helping people to make the most of the computers, especially with all the different languages. We were able to make use of a digital camera to put some pictures onto the congress website during the week.
As far as I know, this was the first time that pictures and reports from a vegetarian congress were available to the rest of the world whilst the congress was taking place. The next step will be live videos. Maybe the next congress will make this possible.