We all need to understand that Internet empower-ment depends on acquiring tools and skills to make things happen. It is not about what our govern-ment can do for us, but about what we can do for ourselves, our families, our communities, our cul-ture, and beyond.
The ideal relationship between individuals and their government stands squarely on a platform that would have all available resources and services transparently known and ac-cessed by all individuals who then participate in a national vision where every-one makes their contribution to both the local and the national good.
The vigour of our citizens, our communities and our nation will thus depend largely on creating motivated lifelong learners, proactive citizens who are value-driven, innovative entrepreneurs, skilled collaborators, and citizens who are both consumers and producers.
National broadband infrastructure deployment and access initiatives which our government is putting in place for us, however, is at risk of failing to deliver on promised benefits because if such infrastructure are installed in communities unwilling to learn to use it, then whose fault is it?
Readiness to change is a fundamental and measurable dynamic. In New Zealand, however, the biggest problem hasn’t been so much the issue of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’, but that of the ‘will-nots’ – those who have the opportunity to collaborate but choose instead to ignore it for whatever reasons.
Opportunities are now literally at our fingertips to make major differences in our lives and the lives of potentially many, many others. But this can only happen if we take steps to discard some prevailing mindsets that fall into two broad categories, which are – those who manage what they do not under-stand, and those who understand what they do not manage.
That being said, what needs to happen is adopting a third mindset where people manage what they understand, and understand what they manage in their pursuit for self-empowerment.
But, those of us first to acquire self-empowerment tools and learning skills must also share a responsibility to help others learn too. We cannot deny that the Internet makes this responsibility indisputably convenient and doable. If we each can learn to commit to giving a little, we’ll all have access to all the know-ledge we’ll ever need.
TOP-DOWN-BOTTOM-UP AND IN-BETWEEN
In most developed countries, dramatic evidence exists which reveal that infra-structure alone won’t create the hoped-for outcomes without a key component that is often overlooked – the ‘human bandwidth’. It is what people eventually learn to actually do using the infrastructure which is just as important. This clearly points to a collaborative top-down-bottom-up approach where facilita-tors, acting as agents of change, literally bring together at the twain all the necessary components to make things happen from those on top with those at the bottom.
VIRTUAL ONE-STOP SPACES
The pace of technological evolution demands ongoing collection, evaluation, and dissemination of the best known practices for individual and community survival, expression, and celebration.
The Internet and the Web both offer self-empowerment through self-directed learning. It brings to everyone an opportunity not only learn anything, anytime, but to teach anyone, anything, anywhere, anytime. This desired outcome raises self-esteem, general literacy levels, national and global awareness for all members of a local community willing to participate.
Internet collaborative tools can build local organisational capacity too. Marae, schools, and faith-based community organisations that enjoy some physical space where people congregate often can all have a new, enhanced mission to develop these too as community tech centres or virtual ‘one-stop spaces’ that serve their local communities.
These spaces will play an expanded role as centres for such activities as community Internet training, community networking, electronic democracy and where local entrepreneurial models can be incubated as projects that are eventually launched for the benefit of community members. That kind of collaborative effectiveness will increase as they gain more experience, as more tools continue to improve, and as more skills continue to grow.