Earlier this year, the Chebucto Community Net celebrated its 5th birthday. Birthdays provide a useful opportunity to look back and see where we have come from. CCN began as a vision shared by a few dedicated people back in 1993. Through a lot of time, hard work, and creativity, the Chebucto Community Net was born.
What was the vision behind CCN? And why have so many people thought it was worth pursuing? At the core of the vision is an idea of the community of the future, of the ability to use technology to create a new way of looking at, and building, communities. Community networks can be an enabling tool to raise the level of community awareness and citizen interaction. CCN does this by hosting listservs, or electronic discussion groups, on a variety of topics, and by providing space for community groups to tell their stories online.
Community networks are essentially local, and the key to their success is the participation of community organizations and agencies. We call them Information Providers. At CCN we showcase the web pages of 185 information providers, ranging from a Metro Transit to Halifax Dance to the Atlantic Sports Car Club to the Sport Medicine Council of Nova Scotia.
Another key part of the vision is the concept of electronic public space. As more and more information and services are delivered electronically, it is important that public access to electronic information is maintained. Chebucto, like many community networks, provides a variety of internet access accounts, based both on services provided as well as ability to pay. Free accounts are available to ensure that no citizens are denied access. Bill Gates has called this the "digital divide", the line between the electronic haves and have nots. Community networks attempt to bridge this divide.
Volunteers play an important part in the process of making the vision come to life. CCN was built and maintained by volunteers who thought that this was an adventure worth pursuing. With the help of institutional partners like Dalhousie University, the local public libraries, and Sun Microsystems, CCN was created by volunteers. Training is an important part of CCN’s activities. True access means facilitated access. Over the past five years, CCN volunteers have trained over 13,000 people.
Looking back after five years, it is remarkable what has been achieved. CCN is now the oldest independent internet service provider in Halifax. We have more than 3500 active users, and provide web space for 185 community groups. We offer a full range of internet accounts, from basic text accounts to full graphical access via PPP. And we have done this while remaining faithful to the original vision.
In the course of our development we have created a public profile that has allowed us to take advantage of, and create, opportunities to build on our successes. We are one of the principal partners in Industry Canada’s VolNet program, an initiative designed to assist volunteer organizations in taking advantage of electronic technologies. During the next year CCN plans to assist 175 volunteer organizations get online.
CCN has been contracted to manage the initial implementation of Industry Canada's Urban CAP (Community Access Program) project in Metro Halifax. This is an exciting idea which is built on the ideas of public access to technology, community development, and volunteer organizations, the same ideals behind Chebucto’s own development.
During the past year CCN applied for, and was granted, charitable status from Revenue Canada. This past year also saw the introduction of Chebucto Plus, our new graphical access connection.
It is impossible to predict where CCN will be in five years, but it is probably safe to say that we will be involved in projects that are now beyond our imaginations. It is probably also safe to say that we will continue to use technology to further the visions and dreams of the volunteers that created CCN five years ago.
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