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Section Four -
Ecommerce and Community-building Resources

This section contains a collection of articles and web tours for community networking and Ecommerce start-up training representing many examples of the very best resources available. Lessons learned from ten years of community Internet projects are included with recommendations for future programs based on this invaluable experience.

Why Should I Care? - Community Networking and Self-Directed Learning
How Computers Can Help Build Community

Community Networking - Making a Difference
Innovation Diffusion - Looking at the Process of Change
Community Networking; Leveraging the Public Good Electronically
Building Learning Communities Web Tour
Community Internet Empowerment Resources for Rural Communities
Community Internet Awareness Events & Self-Directed Learning Res
Community Network Planning Guides
Community Networking Associations
Community Networking Reports and Projects
Community Networking Directories
Community Networking Models
Electronic Democracy Web Tour
Federal Government Important Resources

Ecommerce Startup Resources Web Tour
Ecommerce Sites with Free Trials and Services
Youth Entrepreneurship
Women's Entrepreneurial Networks
Career and Job Marketing Sites
Unique Ecommerce Services
Community Networking Clearinghouse

Why Should I Care? - Community Networking and Self-Directed Learning

Engaging rural citizens in becoming motivated to understand their opportunities for utilization of high bandwidth presents both challenges and opportunities.

Justifying the Investment

Careful analysis of over ten years of community networking projects, and the current lack of replicable successful models, and methods to measure success, suggests a different approach is needed.

To justify the investment in infrastructure, models and methods for measuring training outcomes, proven benefits, and creating a readiness for widespread utilization, are needed. Measurements are the key to success.

It will ultimately be what the majority of people learn to do with bandwidth that will justify the investment. If training is omitted, the lowest levels of benefit can be expected.

The new competitive dimension for community economic sustainability is mobilizing the self-directed learning and collaborative sharing potential of citizens, using those Internet applications which return the greatest benefit and motivation, requiring the least time and effort invested.

Moving Beyond Physical Infrastructure toward Creating a Social Information Infrastructure - Citizen Engagement in Developing Both Social and Economic Value

It's not obvious what type of fast-track community engagement program can establish widespread interest and participation.

It's not obvious what type of training produces inspired and motivated citizens and requires the least time and effort, while delivering the highest possible benefits.

One of the lessons learned from ten years of community networking test-bed projects is that the promise of inspired, motivated citizens collaborating online has yet to be realized on any significant scale.

The builders of these networks need to partner in new and meaningful ways with the intended users.

Most citizens are intimidated by technology, doubt their abilities to keep up, and don't have a means of learning how to benefit at high levels in the short term.

Unlike the majority of rural citizens, whom we hope will benefit at high levels, those in high tech industries know how to learn the latest applications on an ongoing basis.

It's not obvious how best to define successive steps forward as a learning pathway for citizens, but posting known Ecommerce successes and posting a roster of locals willing to share their skills as mentors are recommended as first steps.

There exists an increasing opportunity for vendors to creatively mobilize the collective will of communities by validating the outcomes of learning new Internet applications.

Creating Visible Success: Public Ongoing Self-Assessment Via Evaluative Measurements

While technical academies exist for the perhaps 1 percent of us who will maintain networks, the real need is for an academy program for the other 99 percent aimed at community applications, including entry-level entrepreneurship and Ecommerce.

Tangible goals, combined with mobilizing the collective will of a community, need to be reflected in a public ongoing manner so everyone can work together.

Balancing Training and Bandwidth Investments

As costs for bandwidth are dropping due to new wireless and satellite options and other factors, providing expensive bandwidth at today's prices before communities have the training to be ready may waste the majority of bandwidth and investment.

Matching infrastructure and training expenses, dollar for dollar, is recommended to avoid the wasted expense of under-utilization. You want the highest bandwidth you can afford that you know you're ready to utilize.

Bandwidth isn't a single fixed entity but is increasing all the time. The level of bandwidth is not necessarily directly proportional to the level of realized benefits.

It's what you've learned to do with existing bandwidth that is the often missed point.

How Computers Can Help Build Community

We live today in a world where the rate of change is accelerating. Being unaware of the impact these changes will have on us and our communities will have increasingly serious risks. Lifelong learning, K-100, has become an essential skill. Many would argue lifelong learning is fast becoming an essential survival skill. Information overload creates new pressures to create new forms of knowledge-sharing communities.

If we all share what we know, we’ll all have access to all our knowledge. If we hoard knowledge and keep it from others for competitive advantage, we’ll all have only what we ourselves have learned.

What connected computers do very well is match specific needs with specific resources. Through good heartedness, and collaborative tools, we all will be better able to find and share that specific information which will make a positive difference in our own lives, and the lives of others, worldwide.

With the incredible power the Internet brings to individuals, comes perhaps the responsibility to use it wisely for the benefit of all. First, we need to gain the skills to serve our own personal learning needs, and then, ideally, we’ll use our skills to benefit our families, communities, nations, cultures, and the world.

If we create self-directed learning opportunities for others on the web, we may benefit untold thousands of people looking to learn what they need to know to deal with the rapidly changing realities of our modern world. Building learning opportunities and building learning communities are arguably the most honorable purposes toward which you can apply your skills.

As an individual, you may wish to engage in aggressive independent learning in order to meet the needs of your family, community, and culture. The Internet provides you the opportunity to learn from the best resources and people, worldwide.