Local centres and channels for all

The Manifesto for Local Online Communities proposes that:

Every citizen, regardless of their economic circumstances, should be able to share the benefits of the Information Age - including better communications, greater participation, electronic life long learning, and e-commerce. To achieve this they should have access to local community technology centres, plus public online forums and services to create an online community. The centres will provide technical support and help 'on the ground', the forums will be 'virtual spaces' for online communities related to localities.

The centres will be 'real places' that provide people with access to the Internet, digital broadcast and online services, and opportunities to learn more about their potential. Centres have a proven track record, particularly in the US where there is a strong network. http://www.ctcnet.org

The forums, with associated Web pages of community information, will be online communities that provide people with the information and communication systems necessary to enhance the social, economic and environmental well-being of their communities.

Both centres and online communities will be needed. Without physical access centres, many people will not be able to get online or use the Internet. Centres can also provide a focus for the development of high quality local content and services.

The centres will be the libraries, schools and community centres of the digital age - sometimes located in these existing facilities, sometimes in other places where people naturally gather, sometimes purpose built. They will be designed to be unintimidating, welcoming and convenient. (More here about centres)

A support programme associated with each centre should provide training and advice for individuals, small businesses and community organisations who wish to develop their own use of digital services, ranging from basic Internet use to the development of community media services.

The online community systems will be the local public service broadcasters of the digital age, combining news, information and interactivity. They will develop in a number of ways. Some may be developed by the centres, others by local authorities or non-profit organisations. The minimum services provided should include signposting to local online information, public forums, and scope for self-publishing and broadcasting.

More here on the practicalities of creating centres and channels, and policy issues.

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