Michael Gurstein on Mon, 12 Apr 1999 21:08:56 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Cape Breton Island Virtual Economic Community

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Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999 14:41:09 +0100
From: "Editor, IIB" <editor@iib.com>
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To: Internet.Intelligence.Bulletin@ccen.uccb.ns.ca
Subject: Internet Intelligence Bulletin - April 99

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The Email Newsletter On Electronic Government,
UK And Worldwide.

ISSUE 74, APRIL 1999


The Internet offers exciting new opportunities to overcome economic 
development limitations experienced by run-down or isolated 

Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, like many other relatively isolated resource 
based communities, has suffered considerably from a decline in the 
primary local industries - coal mining, steel-making and fishing, and the 
Centre for Community and Enterprise Networking (CCEN) at the 
University College of Cape Breton was set up in 1995 to explore 
technology-based alternatives to employment being lost from traditional 

The immediate challenge was to respond to the very high unemployment 
in fishing and industrial communities, among young people looking to 
work and stay in their communities, and among the older unemployed 
requiring retraining and then employment opportunities - all familiar 
problems to many areas in need of regeneration.

CCEN identified community applications of technology for non-
metropolitan areas, and invested in training locally-hired staff with 
technology training and tools. It then looked to support these people in 
developing technology-enabled enterprises.

In carrying out this work, CCEN was making a one-time only investment 
in ensuring that the region would "stay in the game". The intention was 
that Cape Breton would have access to the types of modern technology-
based skills and opportunities developing at a breakneck pace in other 

One innovative and successful economic development project initiated 
by the centre has been the creation of a "virtual community" built around 
the Cape Breton variety of Celtic music.

Music, and particularly Celtic music with the associated Gaelic culture 
and tourism, has now become the primary resource of Cape Breton Island 
and its largest employment sector - greater than steel-making and coal-
mining combined.

In 1995 an email list on the subject of Cape Breton music was 
established, {  mailto:CB-Music@chatsubo.com }CB-Music@chatsubo.com. Cape
Breton Music On-Line (CBMO) and the University host this list, which
attracts subscribers interested in Cape Breton's music legacy.
Participants discuss all aspects of the music scene including performers,
performances and history. It has also become a communications medium for
those active in the industry including agents, technicians and teachers.

Information about the list was circulated to whomever it was thought 
might be interested, and it has been remarkably successful. An average 
of 20 messages have been posted per day over the life of the list. There 
are now around 400 subscribers from some 20 countries.

The list has made some useful contributions to overall economic 
development of the region.

An anecdote serves to illustrate this: one list user is a veterinary 
technician and music-lover from Pennsylvania, who had not even heard 
of Cape Breton music when he noticed and subscribed to the list. He has 
now bought a number of music CDs, attended several concerts and had 
decided to attend a music festival in Cape Breton, and spend his next 
two-week summer vacation there participating in a fiddle course.

Our estimate was that the list was resulting in an annual direct 
contribution of approximately 40,000 Canadian dollars (an average of 100 
dollars/subscriber) to the economy of Cape Breton. This was being 
derived from performances, CDs, and travel/tourism or courses which 
were purchased as a direct consequence of participation in the email list. 
The contribution is likely to increase over time.

As the cost of creating and maintaining the list is less than 1,000
dollars a year, this means the return for the community is of the order of
4,000 per cent!

Among the other contributions of the list to economic development were 
marketing a local summer school for Cape Breton music including 
assisting in the recruitment of students from substantial distances; 
assisting a music distributor to develop markets for tapes; and helping a 
dance instructor find clients.

In fact the email list has, somewhat unexpectedly, evolved into a fully-
fledged 'virtual community'.

Other regions having similar difficulties in keeping up with the economic 
race may find similar local resources, such as regional cuisines, crafts, 
dance and other traditions, which could be marketed and developed 
using new technologies.

The Internet makes it possible for local enterprises like these, which may 
be uncompetitive and ineffective in local or regional competition, to find 
global markets and outlets.

While such successes may result in only partial solutions to economic 
problems they are doorways through which communities can gain 
knowledge and experience, and begin to have confidence in their ability 
to participate in the emerging technology-intensive global economy and 
the bewildering world of electronic commerce.

- Article by Michael Gurstein, Director of the Centre for Community and 
Enterprise Networking, University College of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, 
{ HYPERLINK http://ccen.uccb.ns.ca }http://ccen.uccb.ns.ca

Basedon a paper due to appear in 'Doing business on the internet: 
    opportunities and pitfalls', Ed. Celia Romm and Fay Sudweeks, 
    Springer Verlag, Berlin, 1999.
For a full version email the author on mgurst@ccen.uccb.ns.ca


{ HYPERLINK http://www.tricare.osd.mil/cap/

The US Department of Defense and Department of Agriculture are co-
operating on the development of web sites to promote the use of 
assistive technologies among their employees. Assistive technologies 
are those which allow access to computers to people with hearing, 
visual, dexterity and cognitive disabilities.

The Department of Defense work comes under its Computer/Electronic 
Accommodations Program, which funds a Technology Evaluation Center 
(CAPTEC) where users can test and evaluate technologies.

The department says that access to the centre via the web has allowed it 
to provide information to employees with disabilities and their managers 
quickly and directly, enabling needs assessment programmes to be 
carried out.

The United States Department of Agriculture has set up two 
'Technology Accessible Resources Gives Employment Today' 
(TARGET) centres which evaluate and demonstrate assistive 
technologies using various servers, platforms, operating systems, and 

Working with the Department of Defense, the program has found online 
web tours are a strong approach to "bringing employment barriers down 
anywhere, at any time".

The TARGET centres also conduct needs assessments by recreating a 
user's computer working environment and offering assistive 
technologies to close the gap between peoples' functional capabilities 
and their job requirements.

For example, people who are losing their vision are sometimes hesitant to 
use a screen reader, but by using the centre's web site they can see for 
themselves that screen magnification and a screen reader improves their 

People with ergonomic disabilities (repetitive stress injuries) are able
locate new options to reduce their pain such as speech recognition 
systems, alternative input devices, and workstation design.

A spokesman for the Department of Defense project says: " Technology 
is an equaliser for people with disabilities. Although the information age 
is new, we understand the future of work. This future will be based on 
computer controls and computer environments. The ability for people 
with disabilities to access and manipulate information and environments 
will only be possible if more organisations increase their role in 
developing online assistive technology centres."

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