Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

The Case of the Cyber City Network

The City Council of Cyber City, USA, is debating a new program: the Cyber City Network, a service that would allow residents to access a wide variety of municipal and school services from their home computers. If the program is approved, residents will be able to scan the city's job listings, apply for building permits, ask questions of the police department, or get their children's homework using the Internet.

City Council agendas would be posted, and citizens could testify at council meetings from offsite computers. Recreation Department schedules would be available on the network, and parents could sign their children up for sports teams online. Parents could also communicate with teachers. Businesspeople who require city permits and licenses could apply for them via the Cyber City Network.

About a third of Cyber City's 45,000 residents own computers equipped with modems, which would allow them to log on to the network from their homes. The city has promised to provide 10 additional computers at elementary schools, senior centers, and libraries for those who do not have ready access at home.

You have been asked to testify at City Council about the ethical implications of the Cyber City Network.

Will you urge the members to vote yes or no?

This case was written by Thomas Shanks, S.J., Executive Director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

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