How you can use IT in the community

Joining in

Some of the links on this page may be broken, and links to external sites may not work because those sites no longer exist.
However, you can view a working snapshot of the pages at the time they were created on

These pages were initially developed with funding from the UK Government's IT for All campaign, with support from BT Labs. There are now more up to date resources at our other site


The basics of Getting Connected

The benefits of Getting Connected

  • What use it the Internet? by Mark Walker offers a personal overview of what the Internet can offer one community organisation.
  • The benefits of getting online. Michael Mulquin offers an assessment of some of the basic advantages of going online.
  • Family fun and learning on the Net. Jane Mitra explains that using the Internet can be very liberating for parents with small children.
  • Baby boomers join the Information Age. Emma Aldridge explains how Age Concern is helping older people use the Net.
  • Opportunities for work and learning. Maggie Holgate says there is potential to use the Internet as a delivery medium to teach new skills which will make people more employable in the 21st century.
  • A cry for help answered on the Internet. Mark Walker reports that the idea of offering counselling over the Internet was first piloted by the Samaritans at the end of 1994, and has proved highly successful.
  • Rural life and learning benefits from the Internet. Rural communities can suffer from lack of shops and entertainment, health and other services, plus high costs of travel. Moira Stone surveyed the field and found IT can help on several fronts.
  • The community benefits of electronic networking. Researcher Peter Day identifies areas where electronic networks may help support human networks and combat social exclusion - provided there is sufficient access and support.
  • Email as a tool for campaigning. US activist and community networker Ed Schwartz recently wrote a book on the use of the Internet for campaigning. He believes the most basic Internet tools are the most useful.
  • Funding advice on the Web. FunderFinder, a small national charity, has produced software for grant-makers since 1991. Jo Habib describes what they considered in going on the Web.
  • The benefits of Email for community business. Kay Caldwell of the National Network of Community Business explains how the benefits of the Internet became apparent to community businesses which - like their for profit equivalents - need to communicate locally and globally.
  • Teletrade offers communities an economic safety net. Individuals can benefit from teleworking, but successful communities will need teletrade - doing business over networks - says Horace Mitchell of the European Telework Development Initiative.
  • UK plc can't afford a generation of information have nots. Two issues dominate discussion about the Information Society: how to develop a globally competitive workforce, and how to ensure 'have nots' aren't excluded. We can have both if we use IT for lifelong learning, says Chris Yapp, Managing Consultant, ICL Lifelong Learning.
  • Cyberskills open new opportunities in South Bristol. South Bristol Learning Network is one of the pioneers in bringing the benefits of new technology to communities lacking jobs and opportunities to develop new skills. Sally Abram reports on some of their successes.
  • New networks may help tackle old problems. How can the Internet benefit ordinary people and improve their quality of life? Stephen Wilson, a former senior BT manager whose career has embraced many aspects of customer service, network and information systems strategy offers a personal perspective.
  • Government plans electronic information for all. David Wilcox reports that the Government aims to promote the use of online information services to the point where this is 'the preferred option for the majority of government's customers (both citizens and businesses)'
  • The advantages of online advice. Gareth Morgan, Managing Director, Ferret Information Systems, explains the benefits of information systems using new technologies.

The issues you may face

  • Is the Internet a cause for concern? Delia Venables - an independent computer consultant specialising in computers for solicitors - examines some of the social, legal and political issues that cause people concern about the Internet.
  • Turning information overload into useful knowledge. Email and World Wide Web have great attractions - but the sheer volume of information can become intimidating. Jan Wyllie offers some solutions.
  • Children and censorship. Jane Mitra argues that parental responsibility for use of the Internet cannot be avoided as an issue in families.
  • Notes to a novice. Peter Durrant offers some hard-won experience of getting started on the Net.

Promoting awareness and access

  • Seeing IT is believing. Sara Gowen describes how Community Links and the Burley Lodge Centre ran a demonstration about 'Making Computers work for the Community', and the lessons they learned.
  • Using Cybercafes as a community resource. Mark Walker reports that many Cybercafes have moved beyond simply providing access to the Net.
  • Providing parents with information about new technology. Jacquie Disney and Maggie Holgate explain how the Parents Information Network is using the Internet and providing advice to parents.
  • How a community group developed their own Internet guide. The Bede Island Community Association (BICA) is an umbrella organisation with 60 members operating in the Leicester City Challenge area. BICA wanted to show members and anyone else interested how useful the Internet might be, so volunteers Veronica Frazier and John Cox carried out some research for a demonstration.
  • Overcoming scepticism in Nottingham. It can take some effort to overcome suspicion about new technology. Groups in Nottingham are now taking a positive view, says Jem Woolley.

Providing training and support

  • CyberSkills - training for citizens in the digital economy. The CyberSkills Association, based in Bristol, was founded in 1996 to support a network of locally owned, licensed and quality assured CyberSkills Development Agencies, explains Johanna Nicholls .
  • Multi-media? Make mine a quilt. University computer experts planning to help community groups in Bristol use multimedia thought lack of ideas might be a problem. Quite the reverse: projects now include autobiographical quilts and telling the story of a community through an interactive map, reports Morris Williams .
  • Who can help with Community Internet. Peter Mason found there are some specialist organisations who can help those interested in the community use of IT along the road to getting on-line.

Networking your organisation

  • Think before you connect, Voluntary organisations often approach a technical expert for help with their computer system. Paul Ticher - who worked as an adviser on IT to non-profit organisations for nearly fifteen years - suggests there are other issues to consider first.

Networking your community

  • Just do it - advice from a US networker. Steve Snow is the Director of the award-winning Charlotte's Web. Here he writes an open letter to UK networkers.
  • Seven steps to building electronic communities. There are hundreds of community networks in North America, and growing interest in the UK in how to create them. Here Philippa Gamse and Terry Grunwald, who have long experience of US community IT projects, provide a checklist.
  • Factors for success in community networking. Debbie Ellen is researching factors for success in creating and running community networks - so she invited practitioners to add their criteria through email discussions in the UK and US. Here is a summary of their brainstorming, later developed as 10 guidelines for community networks
  • Who's who in providing community information. David Miller of the Department of Information Studies, Sheffield University, developed the first Web site listing UK community information networks. Here he distinguishes the different types of site under development.
  • Helping media consumers become contributors. The University of Tampere, Finland, is helping people in local communities use new media to promote discussion and tackle social issues. Esa Sirkkunen describes their Locality in the Net project.
  • Keeping people in touch and up to date. Manchester Community Information Network provides public access points with constantly updated local information - including one in the Asda Superstore. They do this, says project manager Linda Doyle, by ensuring information providers are responsible for their content and answering public enquiries.
  • Newnet and community networking in Newcastle upon Tyne. Geoff Walker explains how he is working within the City Council to provide an information resource and system for the voluntary sector.
  • Craigmillar - a community development approach to cyberspace, Rousseau, in his CONFESSIONS, sardonically mused that, "it is never any good foreseeing the future," for he had, "never known how to avoid it." Yet in a world of rapid technological change it would be unwise to sleepwalk blindly past the opportunities presented by the Information Society. That recognition informed the thinking behind the creation of Craigmillar Community Information Service in 1994, says its manager Dr Andrew McDonald.
  • How volunteer enthusiasts created a town's Community Network, Community information networks do not have to be started by councils or even voluntary organisations. Chris Studman explains how one Midlands network was started by grassroots enthusiasts.
  • Rural Lincolnshire concentrates on communication, Most local authorities creating local information systems choose Web publishing. North Kesteven decided on a more interactive approach as Clive Redshaw, their Head of Economic and Community Development, explains.
  • Electronic networking can help support the 'third sector'. Sheffield's Open Information Project doesn't claim to be a community network, says Mike Powell. Its aim is establish an electronic information network which will be cheap, easy to use and of direct benefit to the work of "third sector" - voluntary and social economy - organisations in Sheffield.
  • Promoting electronic democracy, by Irving Rappaport, co-ordinator of UK Citizens Online Democracy.

Home : Communities : Organisations : Partnerships : Internet : Projects : Join In : Resources
Prepared by
Partnerships Online January 7 1999