August 15-18, 1997 Halifax, Nova Scotia
August 15-18, 1997 Halifax, Nova Scotia
CONSULTATION PROJECT PROPOSAL: FORUMS ON PUBLIC SPACE COMMUNITY NETWORKING Electronic Public Space Steering Group July 30, 1997. Background: There is a need to involve Canadian communities in discussions about local impacts and responses to new social and economic realities in a way that reflects community values, needs and perspectives. Communities have enormous capacity to identify and solve their own transitional problems. Many Canadian communities have direct experience of accommodating the realities of new communications tools to their needs. But few means exist to share that experience. How are communities addressing local factors of change and succeeding or failing to counterbalance and compliment global factors of change? "Forums on public space community networking" will seek to find the issues that pre-occupy communities and community networks and to promote a multi-sectoral and arms-length dialogue at the community level. Since announcing a commitment to the development of a Canadian strategy for the development of an "Information Highway" in the Speech from the Throne in 1994, the Government of Canada has undertaken a number of policy initiatives to achieve this goal. These include the development of policy initiatives within government departments, between different levels of government in Canada, and convening the Information Highway Advisory Council (IHAC). These efforts have identified policy goals and objectives which include: ensuring universal access at reasonable cost for all Canadians; the affordable and equitable access to essential services; the development and availability of Canadian content; literacy and life-long learning; access to information and services from all levels of government; economic and social participation by all Canadians; and the development of a National Access Strategy, among others. The Canadian Information Highway will be developed and operated by the private sector. The federal government expects that, where market conditions are favourable, the private sector will develop access technologies and content services which meet many of the economic needs of Canadians. However, the IHAC and the federal government have also concluded that there will be ongoing access barriers for different groups of Canadians, and that in addition to market forces, other initiatives, including community networks, will also be required to address the public's full range of economic, social, cultural and civic access and content needs with respect to new communications media. Federal - provincial government discussions of roles and responsibilities for these policies are in their early stages. The issues of sustaining community networks and other electronic public spaces relate to what people actually do with new communications media, not just with the provision of technologies for network connectivity. The goal of consultation is to discuss various models of community participation and autonomy in facing converging communications technologies at the local level. This consultation will assume that it's the community that's the network, not the technology, and that the role of public space community networking is to turn experience of transition into practice. Community based initiatives already offer a number of alternatives which can meet Canadians' needs. Currently, more than one hundred not-for-profit community networks are in development or operation in Canada. It is estimated that a minimum of 400,000 to 500,000 Canadians are members of these organizations, with many more accessing them through the Internet. As well, Industry Canada is acting as a catalyst for community access in up to 4000 locations across Canada, in addition to connecting schools (SchoolNet) and First Nations bands. Not-for-profit community networks are particularly suited to meet both the needs of the public and the policy goals of all levels of government because they are close to the citizen and they have the capability to offer different levels of access and comprehensive content services to meet a wide range of public communication and information activities. A number of public interest groups concerned with public access to the information highway and its relation to the concept of electronic public space have formed a Steering Group to help facilitate the development and sustainability of not-for-profit community networks across canada. These groups have developed a "public space community networks model" (see attached) as a means of arriving at a common understanding about access roles among communities, governments, and businesses involved in communications changes. It is a preliminary working model, drafted for the purpose of consultation. The goal of this consultation is to define a flexible model which can be adopted by communities across Canada. A well defined common model should assist communities in the development of their resources in collaborative ways with different levels of government and the private sector. It should enable communities to anticipate the emerging policy priorities of the federal, provincial and municipal governments. These include: access (individual and communities of connection [eg. Interests] or location [eg. Rural]); technological literacy; learning and training; public consultation; access to government information; community health information; and content development. This Steering Group has been working with both government and private sector partners in the development of this model. As suggested by the Phase II recommendations of the IHAC, community networks are an important part of the policy mix of a National Access Strategy. The Project: The purpose of this project is to undertake a public consultation on the role of not-for-profit community networks in meeting the various access and content needs of the public and to inform the development of a National Access Strategy. Community networks will be considered as part of a number of current models for community participation and access. A second phase (Phase II) of the study would be a long term socio-economic impact study of community networks and electronic public space and the relationship of these to the National Access Strategy as it unfolds over time. In Phase I, the project will consult Canadians from different regions who have an interest in public access as it relates to such issues as literacy, training, content, participation, public information, changing government roles, community development, etc. Individuals invited to participate in this process will primarily be those who have not been part of previous federal Information Highway consultations, and who have some expertise in the public issue areas being addressed. The selection of participants should comprehensively include key actors from all aspects of life in community, even if resources limit full representation. This approach is expected to provide an assessment of how a community network model(s) can best be designed to meet the everyday needs and practices of individuals, community organizations and communities. In addition to the community network model, this consultation process will also address issues relating to Universal Access, the proposal for a National Access Advisory Committee, the National Access Strategy, and the role of public institutions, such as libraries and other community groups in facilitating access and public needs. The general objectives of Phase I are: to discuss and consult in detail on the community network model. To consider other models of community participation and control of public access at the local level in the context of community networking. assemble a comprehensive group of community representatives who are "non-experts" in technology and communications policy and provide them with an opportunity to present their views on their constituents' needs, emerging technologies and the impact and opportunities of these at the community level. to provide additional information for the National Access Strategy and for a National Access Advisory Committee with the capacity to engage in a long-term consultation process, if such a committee is created by the federal government. discuss issues relating to the sustainability of community networks, and their roles in such areas as turning learning into practice, literacy, training, community and public information content, information services from all levels of government, changing government roles and so forth. to describe mechanisms for the generation of resources for the sustainable operation of community networks; and the distribution of resources accrued from the national level to address universal access and social policy objectives. Objectives more specific to communities in transition include: assessment of how communities view the socio-economic impacts, risks and opportunities of the shift to reliance on new communications media for social and economic participation; what do they need to know and do in order to effectively respond? define neutral ground and common interests which connect all three sectors (social, government, business) of community-based institutions. raise awareness about how community expresses itself using the new media, and about how community retains autonomy in choosing its own directions. identify some of the essential consultative and research functions of a National Access Advisory Committee and the National Access Strategy. assist the Electronic Public Space Steering Group to validate and refine its model. Format: Phase I There are two proposed options for consultation. One option is to conduct five regional forums. This option provides the broadest opportunity to represent all walks of life in community. The second option is to conduct a forum in a central location, with participants drawn on a regional basis. The general cost estimates for these options is attached. Forums would be one and a half days in length. These would be held in the conference facilities of a hotel or other public facility. The forums would include plenary sessions and small group sessions, when required. Written proceedings will be produced from the sessions of each forum. The advantages of a formal forum approach are that this permits a detailed and informed discussion of both the community network model and the needs of various community interests with respect to public access to, and use of, electronic public space and the information highway at the local level. A final report will be produced which summarizes the forum proceedings. This report will also make recommendations based on the results of this consultation process and will incorporate the perspectives of the member organizations of the Steering Group on community networking. The Steering Group members have already undertaken some internal consultations on the community network model. These recommendations will address: community networking model(s), the need and possible roles for a National Access Advisory Committee, issues relating to Universal Access, and the National Access Strategy. Time Frame: It is proposed that Phase I of this project will commence in September 1997. Consultations will be completed by November. A final report will be publicly released by January 1998. Phase II is a long term project (2 - 3 years) which would assess issues relating to the ongoing development of community networks and other electronic spaces in relation to the National Access Strategy. The general objectives of Phase II would include: facilitate ongoing socio-economic impact discussions. describe governance model(s) that communities can apply to their own circumstances for the design and utilization of local electronic public space as a public commons. ensure that the lessons learned from experience can be turned into common practices that can be shared among communities. Assess how well universal access and content issues are being addressed and make recommendations as part of the ongoing implementation of the National Access Strategy. In addition to a feedback round of consultation, Phase II would also involve experts and research on selected topics that arise out of the Phase I consultation and other sources that are relevant to the National Access Strategy and a National Access Advisory Committee. This work would include an assessment of the impact of information technologies and the development of the Information Highway on communities. The audience for this work would include different levels of government, public interest and community development organizations, the private sector, and social groups, individuals and institutions at the community level. Budget: General Cost Estimates for Public Consultations - Phase I Costing options are general estimates only. Assumptions about consultation venues and representation, scope of activities, analysis, feedback and reporting affect cost estimates. More detailed costing will be provided after the level of interest by potential sponsors has been determined. 1) Extensive Consultation. Consultations in five regional centres: Atlantic Provinces (Moncton); Quebec (Montreal); Ontario (Ottawa); Prairies including N.W.T. (Edmonton); West including Yukon (Vancouver). Consultations would include up to 50 persons per site of which up to 20 would require travel and accommodation expenses. Duration of consultation: one and a half days (Friday through Sunday). Budget includes: Consultation preparation, management, meeting materials, etc.; Site Costs (including logistics, site support, proceedings, etc.); Travel @ $20k per site; Misc. (Administration overheads, other); Final Reporting; Taxes. Option One, Extensive Consultation: $ 252,000.00 2) General Regional Consultation. Consultations in five regional centres: Atlantic Provinces (Moncton); Quebec (Montreal); Ontario (Ottawa); Prairies including N.W.T. (Edmonton); West including Yukon (Vancouver). Consultations would include up to 25 - 30 persons per site of which up to 10 would require travel and accommodation expenses. Duration of consultation: one and a half days (Friday through Sunday). Budget includes: Consultation preparation, management, meeting materials, etc.; Site Costs (including logistics, site support, proceedings, etc.); Travel @ $20k per site; Misc. (Administration overheads, other); Final Reporting; Taxes. Option Two, General Consultation: $ 192,000.00 3) Central Location Consultation. Up to 60 representatives maximum, drawn from all regions, representing different public interests would be flown in to Ottawa. Duration of consultation: one and a half days (Friday through Sunday). Budget includes: Consultation preparation, management, meeting materials, etc.; Site Costs (including logistics, site support, proceedings, etc.); Travel @ $20k per site; Misc. (Administration overheads, other); Final Reporting; Taxes. Option Three, Central Consultation: $ 142,000.00 Attachment: PROPOSED MODEL FOR CONSULTATION AND COMMENT ON PUBLIC SPACE COMMUNITY NETWORKS Electronic Public Space Steering Group, Spring, 1997.