BEHIND THE HEADLINES

Is a virtual neighborhood possible?

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Q. I understand you are planning on placing a computer kiosk in Centennial Hall for citizens to use. What sort of information might be available on the computer?

A. The information that will be available will be determined by interested people and organizations.

The content is limitless; it can range from zoning and resource maps to information on schools to human services, to recreational opportunities to a project management function that allows organizations, individuals and government to interconnect , schedule, communicate, and share information.

It will be anything that this community wants to have readily accessible and deems important and useful.

We are hoping to install a "draft" version of the kiosk and WZAccess (prototype name for the kiosk) in Centennial Hall by the end of the summer.

This will help to stimulate ideas about what type of information WZAccess should contain, and where the kiosks might be located for best access.

In the meantime, we can make presentations of community information ystems that have already been installed in other communities, and more information can be found on the Web site www.liaa.org.

Other sites with good information are www.montcalm.org, westmichigantricities.org, and www.liaa.org/smem.

Q. How are you going to get the information?

A. The content will be the outcome of a public participation process called "Building a Sense of Place." As Joe VanderMeulen from Land Information Access Association (LIAA), an organization in Michigan, suggested, this process can be incorporated into a process already planned by the community.

For example, can "Building a Sense of Place" contribute to wider public participation in the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan update process?

We are discussing this possibility with APCC and Wendy Schulenberg. If this process can help them achieve their goals, then that may be a good partnership.

These kinds of collaborations can be very exciting and rewarding.

Q. Are you going to need a lot of volunteer time to make this project a reality? Do you think the people of Steamboat Springs are willing and able to make a project of this magnitude come off?

A. Public participation is essential. WZAccess will be as good as the level of participation and commitment.

Yes, indeed, I think the people of Steamboat are willing and able. It is up to us to demonstrate the value. If we can do that, people will make the effort to produce a good result.

Q. It can be difficult for

community organizations to get input from a large cross-section of residents.

How will you be able to reach the "average Joe" on the street?

A. People are already very active in this community. It makes sense to work from this platform rather than attempt to build a new process.

Non-profit organizations may play a big role in WZAccess. WZAccess can be a doorway for these organizations to get their information in front of their audience.

Collectively, this touches a big percentage of the folks living in Routt County.

Board members, volunteers, and customers of non-profits extend the reach of these organizations to all sectors of the community: business, social, and environment and the government that serves them.

In turn, if this is a catalyst for folks to participate in a planning process such as the Steambaot Springs Area Community Plan mentioned above, more people benefit.

Digital information sharing is like lighting more candles. The candle used to light more candles is not diminished. Rather, each successive candle lit makes the room shine more brightly.

Q. Could there be kiosks in places other than city buildings, such as a coffee shop? How will you gear the kiosk to make it available to locals and not just another tourist info-mart?

A. We committed to City Council to build a resource center for the citizens of Steamboat Springs and Routt County.

The most effective (and space efficient) way to do this is to build a digitally-based information center.

We have been working with LIAA to develop a process and system that is accessible to any of us. They have incorporated touch screen technology, and are now adapting that to a web-based system as well.

So Steamboat will get both public kiosks (computer workstations) and access from their home or office computers.

The kiosks will go wherever the community would like to have them the library, the County Courthouse, Centennial Hall, any place that makes access for citizens easy and comfortable.

We will not gear the kiosk one way or another. Our job is to facilitate a community discussion and process.

The citizens will determine who the audience is and what they want to provide to that audience.

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