Planning for Local Community Internet Awareness Initiatives
              by Frank Odasz,

Clyde, Kansas, population 800, received a grant for community training to develop local electronic communication skills and Internet applications awareness in three specific areas; civic, personal, and business. After many internal planning meetings and a conference call with Lone Eagle Consulting, they asked me to come present multiple presentations as the first in a series of two presenters’ visits.

When I arrived in Clyde, KS, I met with 2 HS students and within 10 minutes they were creating a digital storytelling presentation tour of Clyde using my new CD-write digital camera (Sony Mavica CD-1000). Over a two day period, I showed THEIR multimedia creation as I presented for the library board, clients at the senior center, the JRHS staff, the full HS assembly of students and faculty, and then at my keynote for the Chamber Banquet. By the time I was finished, I'd presented for 299 persons out of the population of 800. All handouts, including recommended low-cost short-term action initiatives, plus three mini-courses for citizens are at  

The day I left these same HS students created a web authoring and training business and I've continued to keep in touch them. They have created business flyers, business cards, have T-shirts with their logo and have five businesses on contract for web page creation. They are not allowed to pocket their earnings, but will use the money to buy multimedia presentation equipment, and a CD-1000, to support their business and training activities. The idea is they created jobs for themselves that will allow them to remain in Clyde to assure the future of the community.

I continue to encourage them and 'send' them Ecommerce curriculum URLs to assure their expertise and ability to contribute to the community. I also told their story via my keynote for 200+ rural community developers Jan. 23rd at the Rural Workforce 2001 conference. Afterward, again to showcase what the capabilities of the HS kids, I wrote this up in an article for the Clyde newspaper.

If your community were to plan a similar series of events, what would you do differently, or if Clyde were to do it all over again, what would they do differently?

Building on this experience, I’m now talking with planners for a three county series of presentations for rural communities in SE Oregon. Funding is available for equipment for three community technology centers. Here are my initial suggestions:

When I presented last September for a Central Oregon community development conference, they shared with me   as a regional community network. It is very well done with many neat features. The creator privately lamented not enough citizens are really using it.

This is a common problem, hence my listings of 'citizen engagement activities.' A similar budding regional site from Kansas is . They contracted with  for interactive tools for community content development.

See this listing of free web tools. Its overwhelming, but significant in that we have more tools than we know what to do with.

For a youth project model to consider for local web-based content creation, see . For an outstanding student business hosted by a student-run ISP ( ) in Sisters, Oregon, see  

You might like to look at my handouts for Clyde, KS  and for my Pocatello Ecommerce presentation: . I'll include whatever model sites you send me in the handouts for your communities.

I'd be very interested in working with you and your communities to showcase a model implementation of these ideas, as well as those listed in the Bootstrap Academy at

I describe how youth can use digital cameras, art and music at , page 116 in my printed "Common Ground Internet guide." It describes the three youth teams championing local expertise on digital photograph, digital art, and digital music, on page 120. See also , also in my Internet guide, on page 61.

A fast-track strategy to create citizen awareness about the benefits of the Internet for rural communities is to provide community access to key technologies and youth willing to provide demonstrations and technical assistance as needed. A single digital camera in a rural community can allow anyone interested to post picture of their items for sale on online auction sites like Ebay ( ) or .

Anyone can create a personal website with a personal photo in just minutes, to include photos of their kids, business, location, etc. Programs like Adobe Photoshop allow professional quality photo manipulations of every description. An art tablet allows art and special effects to be added to photographs, or for original artwork to be created using over 100 artists tools. (Art tablet is at,   Painter 5 art software is at   Such art and photographs can be printed on fabrics to create promotional T-shirts, quilts, etc. MIDI musical keyboards costing as little as $99 and composition software (Cakewalk Home Studio 8.0 costs around $85 at ) can allow an extreme range of creative tools for publishing sound and music on the web, multi-track sequencing, autotransposing and much more.

As the web becomes more multimedia due to increasing bandwidth and evolving technology, access to community-based expertise for digital photography, art and music will become more and more important for both social and economic development applications. It is NOT necessary, or viable, for all citizens to attempt to develop all these skills. It IS important that they have access to this expertise, locally. This creates opportunities for new services businesses and for youth to create local jobs to allow them to remain as contributing citizens to support the future of the community.

The costs are so low, that as more and more citizens understand both the fun and economic applications, more and more citizens will be able to purchase these technologies and create new entrepreneurial applications through using them. The challenge is to create new local relationships focused on the ongoing sharing of new skills and capabilities new technologies and Internet make accessible.

Your CTC's would be the very first to implement this vision and strategy...and could post on the web pictorials on how you went from vision to implementation and what the results were.

More and more communities are getting fiber optics, wireless, satellite, and other high speed Internet connections and are just beginning to realize they don't have a clue how to turn high speed Internet access into community sustainability.

Rural communities are looking for proven models of communities who have succeeded in creating inspired, motivated citizens able to continually innovate and teach themselves as the technologies and opportunities rapidly evolve.

A Brief History of Community Networking

During the mid-eighties, when "online" meant text-only on slow phonelines, the community networking vision started with highest altruistic goals of electronic democracy, unselfish sharing of information globally without restriction, and the goal of creating the richest possible online dialogs from which to forge the future. But today, the vision has somehow become the mundane prattle of individual self-gratification and mercenary goals. What happened?

Originally growing from the themes first promoted by the Cleveland Freenet and the National Public Computing Network, hundreds of community networks, called Freenets, popped up in the U.S. and Canada offering free local dialup access to online community forums and text-based menus of local information. Free access to text-based Internet was also offered, but the Internet in the eighties was only for the most dedicated.

Once the web appeared, with an image-based point-and-click environment, the Internet was ready for prime time, which meant ‘commercial exploitation.’

Catering to simplistic shopping and chatroom applications, the higher purposes of serving communities has taken a back seat to the fast buck. This is likely to change, however, once citizens gain more experience with the Internet and begin to perceive the higher uses as modeled by others.

The popular perception is that billionairre whiz kids from Silicon valley have already capitalized on the economic potential of the Internet, leaving regular folks without a clue or a window to also benefit. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

These tools allow for unlimited innovation and opportunities as we’re already seeing. The problem is that most communities are not paying attention to their own local innovations, or even listing local web-based businesses.

Communities are challenged with finding effective methods for ongoing awareness-raising regarding the genuine opportunities the Internet offers to those who understand them. Specific community awareness-raising activities are listed at and 

A Rural Oregon Community Development Web Tour at   has many great resource links for seniors, women, entrepreneurship and much more! You can read about Lone Eagle's community and youth presentations tour in Oregon at  and   Everything else is at