Knowledge based communities

Speaking on a Canadian Federal Government program that is delivering Internet access to rural and remote communities, Sandra Rosano from Industry Canada said that it is important to interpret trends in Internet use.

"There is increasing access but are people making the best use of the information that is available?" she said.

Through a Federal funded program called 'Smart Communities' role models for others to follow are being set up. Canada's aim is to have better informed, connected citizens.

"It is a global race," Sandra Rosano said. "We must keep moving forward or we will fall behind the rest of the world."

Currently Canada has 50 percent of homes with Internet access, 70 percent of small and medium businesses and 100 percent of school and libraries are connected.

With predictions that by 2003 e-commerce will account for some $2 trillion world wide, to be viable and sustainable, all communities need to have access.

Sandra Rosano advocates the setting up of community portals.

"Create one common meeting place for all users in the community &endash; business, government, community groups and so forth &endash; to give internet users a reason to go to the site," she said.

Although 70 percent of small and medium businesses had access to the Net, few in Canada are using e-commerce to interact with their customers. Businesses must ensure their web site content is right and easy to navigate. They need to reach and then retain users, ensuring they will come back.

The Canadian Government has created gateway software for communities to use, where they are given the tools but it is up to them how they manage and profile their area on the Web.

"Communities are aiming to enrich the Internet experience by providing relevant, useful, dynamic community focused information," Sandra Rosano said.

"This requires an anchor tenant. In most cases the anchor tenant is Local Government as it is closest to the people, provides a range of services, is a community leader in Information Technology and can draw relevant stakeholders together."