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International

'Junior Summit' endorses new nation

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 23 -- The search began Monday for children ready and willing to populate "Nation1" -- a cybercountry endorsed by a just concluded "Junior Summit" that brought together 94 delegates from around the world.
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 23 -- The search began Monday for children ready and willing to populate "Nation1" -- a cybercountry endorsed by a just concluded "Junior Summit" that brought together 94 delegates from around the world. Hundreds more teens from 139 countries joined the summit via the Web.

"We believe that Nation1 has always existed," the 94 delegates wrote in their declaration. "There has always been a universal culture of young humanity, but only now are the means arising for us to make common cause, using technology to bring all of us closer. Together we can harness the natural virtues of youth: tolerance, energy, playfulness, hope and a willingness to share."

Endorsing Nation1, a Web site that's been active for around a year now, was just one outcome from the summit, hosted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab.

Children from as far away as Australia, India and Uganda shared their ideas about technology and world policy with each other and another 2,900 colleagues in 139 countries via the Web and e-mail.

The teens discussed 20 action plans, among them "How to use technology to improve education, but not replace teachers" and "How to prevent homelessness and children living on the street."

And while much of the discussion took place over the last week, many of the teens have been exchanging ideas for months.

Ethics, not laws
Despite the variety of cultures, the teenagers were able to agree on several basics for building cybernation.

"We believe in ethics rather than laws. We believe in trust not fear," Mariana Cavazos, 16, of Costa Rica, told the delegates and some 200 adults gathered at MIT's Media Lab. "Lying is bad. You don't hurt another persons feelings and you dont take what is not yours."

Nation1 will have a central cyber bank backed by corporations, government grants and private donations that will provide e-commerce financing to equip schools with Internet-ready computers and network connections.

Nick Moraitis, a 15-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, said starting Monday he and others would be doing their best to recruit new citizens. "We need to populate the country before we can change the world," he said. "It takes more than week to build a country. We've only just begun."

Communications gap
A major challenge for the summit was creating a viable communications system. "Not everyone has a T1 line," said MIT Media Professor Bill Wright, referring to the direct high-speed Internet connection. "Some places we went, the kids didn't have phone lines let alone high-speed modems."

The Media Lab designed a Web site that works with both high and low bandwidth connections. And while the summit couldn't wire everyone who sought access, it did find resources to provide computers -- and technicians to set them up -- to 85 teens in 78 countries.

Media Lab technicians also modified translation software so that e-mail conversations held before the summit could be translated from English to any of five languages in 10 seconds or less.

But with so many cultures represented, obstacles remained. Kids dubbed the software translations "gisting" because while they aren't always accurate, one gets the "gist" of the message.

And at the summit, a Taiwanese delegate complained that at summit sessions where teens met face-to-face many conversations weren't translated into everyone's language because moderators didnt have the ability or the pace to keep up.

Created by Sega chief
The summit is the brainchild of Isao Okawa, obviously not a household name but he does carry some weight as chairman of SEGA Enterprises -- the company whose product so many children find so relevant to their lives.

Okawa put together the first Junior Summit in 1995 after attending a meeting of world leaders dealing with the wired planet. Children should be involved as well, he figured, since they'll be using that wiring in the future.

Last week, Okawa went even further, donating $27 million to MIT for the creation of a center for children founded on the belief that new digital technologies will drive fundamental changes in education.

Others sponsoring the $2 million MIT summit were Citigroup, the LEGO Group and Swatch.

Visitors can check out the Nation1 Web site as well as the Junior Summit site for additional background.

Reuters contributed to this story.




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