Community Internet Testbed

BRIGHTON AND HOVE Virtual Festival this week became the testbed for new ideas on how to use the Internet to benefit residents and businesses in both town centre neighbourhoods and outlying estates.

Discussions on how to create 'neighbourhoods online', developed over recent months, were brought together at the main event of the Virtual Festival Community Day on May 18.

About 50 people involved in local projects were joined by Civil Servants and staff of BBC Online, who are planning their own community day.

After hearing reports from North Laine, Hangleton and Knoll and Brunswick, everyone took part in a Community Internet 'game' to design an online neighbourhood. The results are reported overleaf.

Discussion groups gave high priority to helping community activists use the Internet, putting community news on the Net, e-commerce for local businesses and running workshops in the community to ensure any plans meet local needs.

At the event John Humphreys, of the Department of Trade and Industry, strongly supported development of community-based plans for Internet use, and offered funding to Hangleton and Knoll to become one of six pilot areas exploring local use of the Net.

The results will become part of the Social Exclusion Unit report on the barriers to use of the Internet.

Sally McMahon, from Brighton and Hove Libraries, explained how the council was planning local community information networks, and Anna King, of the Voluntary Sector Forum described how professionals and activists could use the Net in their day-to-day work and improved partnership working with the council.

The event was sponsored by The Community Channel, which is funded by the Home Office and DTI to experiment in using the Internet to link projects and policymakers, and promote innovation.

The Community Internet game has been developed by consultant Drew Mackie and Channel editor David Wilcox &endash; a Brighton resident &endash; to help local people plan use of new technology in ways which will really benefit their community.

Earlier in the week residents in Hangleton and Knoll had played the game 'for real' to establish priorities for their area. DTI funding will support a bigger community awareness day and seminar with policymakers.

The next step for work throughout Brighton and Hove will be a seminar organised jointly by Sussex Community Internet Project and The Community Channel.

This will explore how to support neighbourhood initiatives, and how to use the Internet to improve communication between people working in local projects and policymakers &endash; at local, regional and national level. Community Channel is at

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Participants at the Virtual Festival used Community Internet cards to plan an Online Neighbourhood including e-democracy, e-commerce, training, and activists online.

John Humphreys from the DTI explains why the Government is supporting Community Internet.John is secretary to Policy Action Team investigating social exclusion and access to the Internet.

Plans for Neighbourhoods Online build on the pioneering work of the Sussex Community Internet Project, which is at