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partnerships:articles:day1 [2017/06/12 10:20] (current)
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 +The community benefits of electronic networking
 +===============================================
 +
 +\
 + By [Peter Day](mailto:​P.Day@bton.ac.uk),​ P.Day@bton.ac.uk
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +\
 +
 +Researcher Peter Day, of Brighton University, identifies areas where
 +electronic networks may help support human networks and combat social
 +exclusion - provided there is sufficient access and support. He wrote
 +this article in 1997.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +While no-one can predict with much certainty what impact that the new
 +information and communication technologies (ICTs) will have on our
 +society and local communities,​ we can be confident that they will make a
 +big difference. Here are some areas where there could be benefits.
 +
 +Community development
 +---------------------
 +
 +Communities consist of individuals,​ families, groups, organisations and
 +institutions,​ all of which contribute to and affect the development of
 +the whole. Often they are sources of untapped skills, expertise and
 +knowledge which, if encouraged and stimulated, can contribute not only
 +to the development of an individual community itself, but to society in
 +general.
 +
 +Today'​s commercial organisations harness networked technology to improve
 +business efficiency and effectiveness. Similarly, modern electronic
 +community networks provide both community information and a means of
 +electronic communication within and between communities.
 +
 +Community information needs and social exclusion
 +------------------------------------------------
 +
 +The information needs of each individual citizen within a community
 +varies according to their personal, family and social circumstances,​ and
 +making and maintaining contact with the growing number of organisations,​
 +groups and agencies that impact on our daily lives is a complex and
 +sometimes impossible task.
 +
 +Access to the right information at the right time and in a user friendly
 +and understandable format, together with the ability to communicate with
 +appropriate organisations should be a basic right in today'​s Information
 +Society. It is essential for those suffering from social exclusion.
 +
 +Social exclusion can impact on the unemployed or the homeless, the
 +disabled or the elderly. It can include single-parents,​ those on
 +low-incomes. ethnic minorities. or members of other minority groups.
 +However, the phrase social exclusion can equally be applied to those
 +living in rural and peripheral communities who for whatever reason are
 +deprived of essential support services.
 +
 +A community-based information resource which provides local people with
 +local information across the widest possible spectrum can go some way to
 +addressing the problem of social exclusion through information
 +deprivation.
 +
 +Community information resources
 +-------------------------------
 +
 +Clearly the type of information provided is a central issue to the
 +success of any community information resource, and community-based
 +Internet initiatives are no different. The information needs of any
 +community can only be ascertained by an exhaustive exercise of community
 +analysis or profiling. In other words, it is essential that the
 +community is given the fullest opportunity to participate in the process
 +by being asked about their information needs.
 +
 +For a community information resource to be relevant to a community, it
 +must also be accessible.
 +
 +Most people today still do not have computers in their homes, and even
 +fewer have modems which enable access to online information resources.
 +This means a mechanism must be found which enables people to '​drop-in'​
 +to sites located throughout the community.
 +
 +Public access points which encourage the '​drop-in'​ visitor can be
 +situated in locations such as community centres, libraries, schools,
 +health centres. Even pubs and supermarkets might be considered suitable
 +locations.
 +
 +However, access is not simply an issue of public access points and their
 +geographic location alone. Citizens must be able to use the technology
 +and have the capability to use the information. Because these are skills
 +that most people still do not possess, the issue of access should be
 +linked to training, education and learning.
 +
 +Education and Training
 +----------------------
 +
 +If community networks fail to encourage learning throughout the
 +community through the provision of training and education courses then
 +there is a risk of them reinforcing existing technological and
 +information elitism.
 +
 +Physical access alone is worth nothing if citizens can neither use nor
 +exploit either the technology or the information. Education and training
 +in developing information handling and technical skills are therefore
 +also issues of access, and must be tailored to suit needs of users.
 +
 +For many people the rate of change brought by technological convergence
 +and development is frightening. How many people have had problems tuning
 +in their new VCR? Or have had problems setting it up to record their
 +favourite programme?
 +
 +Training and education should be tailored to suit the needs of the
 +learner and not the teacher. Students should be encouraged to adopt a
 +hands on approach from day one. Learning resources and lesson handouts
 +should utilise screenshots that show what each stage of the exercise
 +should look like. Not only is this a useful reference source for
 +students but it allows them to progress at their own speed and in their
 +own time.
 +
 +Jobs
 +----
 +
 +Facilitating community access to the Information Society through
 +training allows individual and groups to use the technology for social
 +purposes. However, it also creates a local skills-base which can be
 +harnessed by public and private sector alike for economic development
 +purposes.
 +
 +Community networks therefore, by addressing educational and training
 +needs, can improve local people'​s employability by developing much
 +sought after skills.
 +
 +Electronic democracy
 +--------------------
 +
 +Community networks are more than simple community information networks.
 +If they provide training and support, and incorporate interactive links
 +with the organisations providing information,​ community networks provide
 +a platform for communication.
 +
 +Not only can groups and individuals find and supply information,​ they
 +can participate in the democractic process. Local government can provide
 +information and perhaps go one step further by creating '​virtual'​
 +councillor'​s surgeries. Councillors,​ as elected members of local
 +government, have a heavy demand on their time. The usefulness of the
 +conventional surgery depends on constituents being able to attend the
 +location, at a specified time. The use of e-mail can circumvent such
 +problems and improve representation by allowing local citizens access to
 +elected representatives that might otherwise be denied due to domestic,
 +work or social commitments.
 +
 +Community networks are not simply about creating an empowered
 +citizenship through civic participation. They can also create an open
 +space for social communications. E-mail, bulletin boards, discussion
 +groups, etc. can all be used to create communities of interest both
 +within and beyond the geographic boundaries of the local community.
 +
 +Social role of community networks
 +---------------------------------
 +
 +Information and communication technologies can underpin and aid the
 +activities taking place within a community, but they do not replace them
 +and are no substitute for them. Community networks are primarily social
 +networks which harness technology to provide an additional means of
 +communication between individuals/​groups/​organisations,​ etc..
 +
 +Community networks can facilitate the sharing of information between
 +organisations,​ and thereby encourage co-operation and collaboration
 +between them. This approach can be particularly useful to the voluntary
 +sector, by pooling resources in this way, organisations can avoid
 +duplication of effort; put clients in touch with other appropriate
 +organisations and agencies; and meet the needs of their client groups
 +more effectively and efficiently.
 +
 +Community centres make ideal public access points, or nodes on the
 +community network because they are often the hub of existing social
 +networks. ICT can be used to reinforce these social networks by
 +strengthening existing, and developing new relationships between
 +community groups, organisations and individuals.
 +
 +A community centre also provides the ideal setting for community run ICT
 +training and education courses. Schools, public libraries, supermarkets
 +and even pubs, in fact anywhere where people meet and communicate can be
 +used to provide some form online access.
 +
  
partnerships/articles/day1.txt ยท Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)