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The Power of All of Us?


Putting Community Technology Tools to Work in Support of American Values and American Innovation


 by Frank Odasz, frank@lone-eagles.com



Leveraging the Public Good, Electronically.

Assessing the power-of-all-of-us begins with the fact that one person's ability can be leveraged via the Internet to have a positive impact on thousands of other lives on a scale unprecedented in human history. If all of us were to learn how to leverage our own talents in this way, and to work together, the overall local, national, and global impacts would be tremendous. The true "promise of broadband" is for all eyes and ears to be working together for the common good in order to produce exponentially greater positive outcomes than all-of-us working separately.

Realizing the “Promise of Broadband”
Due to widespread lack of understanding of the specific benefits of broadband, only 25 percent of citizens will pay for broadband services. This dramatically undermines the business case for rolling out broadband, particularly in rural areas, which are suffering serious economic decline and out-migration of 3-7% per year. How different it would be if all citizens understood the "promise of broadband" and were clamoring for an accelerated roll-out and were ready to embrace the potential applications! Surely there are innovative ways of increasing awareness of the benefits and stimulating demand!?  

Strategies to Stimulate Local Innovation
With the near-term prospects for federal funding for community technology innovation looking quite bleak, communities are beginning to look hard at what innovations can still be implemented with local resources, the will, and a vision. The opportunities for community self-organizing and community-driven broadband solutions are increasing due to new satellite and wireless technologies and steadily dropping costs. 

The emerging opportunity is to define programs to effectively stimulate American innovation on a broad scale with emphasis on local funding. To support this process there is a need to gather and disseminate the best American community technology innovations on an ongoing basis.

Top-Down Control VS Bottom-Up Innovation
If we truly value American innovation we'd be celebrating our innovators and would be vigorously gathering and sharing innovations broadly. The honest truth is that we tend to shun and ignore innovators both locally and nationally, due primarily to the politics of control. The top-down builders of Internet infrastructure need to partner effectively with the bottom-up intended users of these networks.


There are two books out; 1. The Rise of the Creative Class and 2. The Rise of Global Corporate Dominance. These books represent the duality of the power of the Internet; to liberate the creativity of individuals and their potential global impacts, and the risk of corporate and governmental domination of the global economy, politics, media, and ultimately our individual lives and life choices.


Toward Sustainable Community Technology Centers and Community Networks
Over the past 10+ years we’ve seen many innovative efforts to create sustainable community technology centers (CTCs) and community networks (CNs). The grassroots champions behind such projects sought to grow social capital and have viewed corporate for-profit attempts at commoditizing social networking as “strip-mining idealism.” Attention to leveraging the public good has been often pre-empted by profit-only businesses.


Inherent in this phrase “The Power of All of Us,” are echoes of democracy and the long-standing question of how best to leverage the public good electronically. There is certainly far greater potential than has yet been demonstrated for eBay or any corporation to serve as a catalyst for global change developing both social and economic value.


Success in the innovation economy depends increasingly on the ability to collaborate and work well with others. The authenticity of measurable widespread purposeful participation by citizens will be the benchmark for success. American values of character and honesty are more important than ever.


Implementing a Win-Win Solution

The current lose-lose dilemma, where Americans don’t know how to use the Internet to realize an income, and hence severely reduces the market demand that would allow widespread broadband deployment, can be reversed to create a Win-Win dynamic. While there are too few success stories of sustainable CTC and CN models, solutions do exist.


Ecommerce is steadily being re-recognized as a viable option to tap into global markets. Outsourcing jobs to India has certainly validated telework, though we’ve yet to train our own teleworkers. The nation’s largest employer, the U.S. government, has passed legislation to dramatically promote telework for federal employees.


An Entry-Level Solution for Web-Based Self-Employment

The latest eBay television commercial promotes the theme “The Power of All of Us.”  The rapid growth of eBay has definitely raised important questions about how best to leverage “The Power of All of Us” and eBay has demonstrated a very successful model for entry-level web-based self-employment.

An Issue of National Competitiveness

If microenterprises produce 86% of all new jobs, and the Internet puts this opportunity at the fingertips of everyone able to get on the Internet, why are most citizens not engaged in entrepreneurial activities despite the dropping costs of computers and Internet access? National competitiveness rests on recognizing that there’s a new gold rush; mining raw human potential - by providing entry level ecommerce education such as Ebay training. The vigor of our communities, our nation, and all nations, will depend on creating motivated lifelong learners, proactive citizens who are value-driven, innovative entrepreneurs, skilled collaborators, and citizens who are both consumers and producers - both learners and teachers, all the time.


eBay has demonstrated effective entry-level ecommerce education opportunities with individual entrepreneurs using eBay numbering 114 million, now too many to ignore. There are 430,000 full-time self-employed Ebay entrepreneurs, and 150,000 online Ebay stores. As one of the fastest growing companies in the world, Ebay has expanded into 28 countries and last year exchanged 28 billion dollars. Though Ebay may be a logical first step for entry level ecommerce education, it has the potential to quickly lead to successively more powerful and inclusive models.


The greatest impact possible for creating rapid peer-mediated skills transfer specifically for web-based self-employment, perhaps beginning with basic eBay skills, would ideally lead quickly to an online course model presenting a hands-on overview for successively greater ecommerce and telework opportunities - as is now being deployed in rural Montana; http://lone-eagles.com/ecom.htm 


Integrating Community Technology Centers and eBay Drop Off Centers

Over 1000 eBay Drop Off centers have appeared in just the last year, presenting a sustainable community training center model worthy of careful study. Any rural community can pilot a demonstration project whereby an empty storefront on any  mainstreet becomes an eBay Drop Off center that also serves as a community ecommerce training center creating widespread local web-based self-employment. By developing for-profit local peer mentoring services, the economy of the entire community could be reversed from serious decline to serving as the new model for rural retail and community self-empowerment.  More on eBay and Drop Off Centers at http://lone-eagles.com/auctions.htm


If each American suddenly became aware of a wide range of doable options, and each was given whatever mentoring support was necessary to guide their self-directed learning to successive next steps, wide-spread skills transfer within any community becomes possible even within a 3-6 month timeframe. Not unlike a Kinkos, a community cooperative service center could easily be raising awareness as to how eBay skills can serve as entry-level ecommerce training, but could also provide far more.


A Case Study: Donnie Morrison, a grassroots champion of the Outer Hebrides Islands in Northern Scotland, saw dwindling populations in his regional communities. Young people were moving away, schools were losing students, the local economies were dying. Donnie was successful bringing high speed Internet to his communities and high-paying telework jobs, and today the communities are once again healthy and growing. By Donnie's own report, his most successful innovation and key to his success was his creation of a community skills registry database. http://www.work-global.com

From Physical Training Centers to Online Learning Communities

While we initially may learn best in a face-to-face setting, the real power for ongoing learning and collaboration is learning to use the online tools which offer convenience and dramatic advantages for gathering and sharing knowledge. Inexpensive open source content management systems (CMSs) can streamline the flow of essential information in communities and serve as the public hub for skills mentoring and the proliferation of fast-track web-based self-employment businesses. Though many CMS formats exist, one such model with robust content is the Lone Eagle Self-Employment Incubator at http://lone-eagles.oldcolo.com  See the photogallery for slideshows of the crafters co-op in Montpelier, Idaho, Aboriginal artists in Australia, Jamaican visionaries, Alaskan Natives and more.


This new model for inexpensive, powerful community networking can be replicated in any community with base costs of $300 installation and $50/month for technical maintenance, or less. Aboriginal villages in Canada offer this service at http://knet.ca/services/ and http://lone-eagles.com/international/ Free open source systems with seven collaborative tools are offered by the National Science Foundation as listed within a youth-driven demonstration project model "Creating Communities of Caring" at http://lone-eagles.com/inquiry.htm


Producing Fast-Track Exponential Growth of Measurable Benefits

Exponential benefits will be realized as more citizens and communities make their skills available and make their successful innovations known to all. Recognizing the exponential extensibility of impact that one talented individual's collected resources and online self-directed lessons can make - will be a revelation on the future potential for scalable benefits as citizen participation increases. As communities of communities naturally evolve for ongoing sharing of new innovations, the benefits to participating communities will also grow exponentially.


Below is a defined intergenerational short-term community web-raising initiative. Within a three-six month period the challenge is to create the most significant measurable outcomes possible regarding new skills imparted to a specific number of citizens, new self-employment businesses, new web sites for existing business and a community co-marketing initiative of all businesses plus a rapidly growing skills registry of the citizen’s new skills to be co-marketed regarding telework jobs.


Sharing the grassroots sparks of innovation among rural communities on an ongoing basis is fundamental to fueling the home fires of innovation simultaneously in all rural communities. Several communities simultaneously conducting this “process” would create a positive competitive “chautauqua” spirit with the theme:

“We’re Limited Only By Our Imaginations.” And Tenacity!


The time has come to acknowledge and share American community technology innovations as if our future depends on it.


Sustainable Ecommerce Entrepreneurship Development Strategies 
Written with the encouragement of the NTIA/TOP program officers




The Montana Choice Process http://lone-eagles.com/montana-choice05.htm

A demonstration project of the U.S. Department of Labor.


 About the Author:

Frank Odasz, is president of Lone Eagle Consulting, http://lone-eagles.com, and board member for the Association for Community Networking. http://www.afcn.org
Biographical information is at http://lone-eagles.com/articles/frank.htm