During the last decade the Internet has evolved from a specialized research environment into a mass communications medium for entertertainment, education and commerce. A mixture of economic and social factors have driven this evolution. At present breadth and equity are key features of the Internet. The projects described below were early attempts to enlarge the public audience making use of the Internet and to make networking technologies available more broadly across the community.

KIDSPHERE. The KIDSPHERE mailing list was formed in May, 1989 to encourage the development of computer networks to serve students and teachers throughout the world.

Common Knowledge: Pittsburgh was a networking testbed developed in the Pittsburgh Public Schools through a collaboration of the school district with the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, with sponsorship from the National Science Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and the Buhl Foundation.

Bridging the Urban Landscape extended the work of Common Knowledge: Pittsburgh, providing after-school access to network resources, developingan in-depth presentation of Pittsburgh history and exploring technologies to provide high-bandwidth services for a Metropolitan Area Network.

Information Renaissance was organized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in January, 1996. Its goal was to provide a focus for public sector networking among the many groups that were collaborating on networking efforts in the Pittsburgh area at the completion of the Bridging the Urban Landscape and Common Knowledge: Pittsburgh projects. Since this time the organizational goals of Info Ren have expanded to encompass national issues and programs for public participation in government.