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Regeneration and ICT - 5

Reaching the parts other policies and activities fail to reach

ICT for Building Communities

The Daily Mail stereotype of people using computers is of of isolated web-heads with no social skills, living off pizza deliveries and getting no fresh air or exercise.

However, computers and online activity can have powerful community-building effects. They can be used to:

  • Bring people together - physically and virtually

  • Build confidence and community identity

  • Promote local activities

  • Enable consultation and online democracy

  • Bring community-focused workers closer in to the community 

In practice there may be a considerable overlap between the specialised learning facilities mentioned in the last section and community-focused centres. These latter go by a variety of names, e.g. Electronic Village Hall, Community Network Centre etc.

For case study information on these see the PAT15 website.

One thing is clear: specialised facilities like these and associated website developments can promote social cohesion, bringing people together who otherwise might not ever meet. And this can be a springboard to other activities such as learning or seeking to (re-)enter employment.

Consultation and local democracy

In principle local authorities and other local agencies cold make great use of the C in ICT, and get significantly interactive with their citizens.

In the UK (unlike the US), this has been seriously tentative so far. Online consultations have tended to have minimal response. Is this because relatively few people are online, or because most people would rather do other things when they are online?

But given that most communications with state representatives in the US are now by email, we have a long way to go. And it highlights the point that most UK public bodies, however much they promote ICT, are not geared up technically, organisationally or culturally to get meaningfully interactive with their constituents.

Bring community-focused workers closer in to the community 

One key point that needs emphasising is that organisations providing services in the community need to change the ways in which they work and communicate if they are to maximise the value of ICT.

All workers involved in regeneration or community support work should be able to spend less time away at the office, and more time at the front line with the customers. It's the same principle that applies to getting a sales force to spend more time in the field.

Remote access to central information resources should liberate time for more effective client contact and service delivery - providing the organisation makes the necessary adjustments to let this happen.

Continue

Intro | Employment | Business | Learning | Community-building | Conclusions

Part 5 of our guide summarises the ways ICT can contribute to building strong, cohesive and inclusive communities.


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