How the Soviet Union failed at developing Internet

It appears that the Soviet Union considered a full computer network to be deployed and even decided to go for it in 1970, a year later than the Arpanet. That’s what a new book ‘How not to network a nation‘ states (here is a link to excerpts).

soviet internetThe Politburo convened that day to hear Glushkov’s proposal and decide whether to build a massive nationwide computer network for citizen use — or what Glushkov called the All-State Automated System (OGAS, obshche-gosudarstvennyi avtomatizirovannaya system), the most ambitious computer network project of its kind in the world at the time. OGAS was to connect tens of thousands of computer centers and to manage and optimize in real time the communications between hundreds of thousands of workers, factory managers, and regional and national administrators. The purpose of the OGAS Project was simple to state and grandiose to imagine: Glushkov sought to network and automatically manage the nation’s struggling command economy“.

And that’s was the end of it: conceived as a way for a central power to plan and decide on the fate of the country, it missed the factor that ultimately made the success of internet: allowing two-way communication and the flourishing of local initiative.

The failure at developing internet is not due to technology. It is due to the centralized, autocratic political system. Internet is the product of democracy, local initiative and free speech.