International Development Research Center
CommonSpace Interactive, Canada
Two years ago in the small Canadian county of Wellington, a community coalition of social service organizations, community groups, businesses, public sector agencies, and private citizens set out to develop a "next generation" community network--the Wellington FreeSpace. Meanwhile, across Canada, many communities were banding together to create FreeNets and community networks that would provide broad access for the public.
Today, many of these networks have succeeded, some have atrophied, and others have vanished completely. At the core of this trend to create community networks is a vibrant, popular movement of community communicators. The lessons learned from their experiences are invaluable to other North American communities and also to the many people around the world who are desperately struggling to close the gap between the information-rich and the information-poor.
Using the Wellington FreeSpace as a case study, this paper arrives at some fundamental conclusions about successful models for nurturing multisector partnerships to promote widespread access to information infrastructure. The result is the Sustainable Community Development Network (SCDN) model:
SCDNs offer free or low-cost access for a broad cross-section of the community, promote economic development and national competitiveness, respond quickly to the needs of people within communities, foster citizen participation in governance and community development, and create avenues for lifelong learning, cultural growth, and preservation. The development of an SCDN will ensure that a community will be able to make informed decisions in the information age and develop significant competitive advantages. SCDNs can help ensure that in communities around the world, people are guaranteed the right to communicate within the emerging global knowledge society.