Winter 2004-2005

Editor's Introduction
Downs and Ups in Community Technology
by anonymous

We stumbled onto a most surprising contradiction that informs our current community technology environs while putting together this issue-opposing trends.

On the one hand, in light of the post-election doldrums and confusion, and the loss of energy and resources that generally characterizes the nonprofit sector as a whole at this time, we find a miniscule amount of shrunken funding now being provided to community technology centers directly. The Department of Education's CTC program funding is a mere shadow of what it once was and could yet be. And there's none at all for Community Networking models efforts. The Technology Opportunities TOP program in the Department of Commerce has been defunded and altogether abolished. And this all on top of the suspension of the e-rate program, the country's capstone, multi-billion dollar effort to provide technology access and education equity via subsidized funding for schools, libraries, and rural health centers, amidst charges of fraud and abuse and welfare Cadillac mother parallels, albeit with corporate telecommunications firms and consultants playing the latter role. It is ironic and a comment on our sad situation that we bemoan the withering of this program, given its exclusion of the nonprofit community sector to begin with. The e-rate program would be much more powerful if it reached and helped integrate a stronger and more solidified education-community service collaboration/coalition, as David Hughes and Terry Grunwald argued in these pages in 1999.

In any case, our perspectives here begin and end with TOP. We've stopped by there before, in the winter-spring of 2002. Now Michael Miranda and Tony Wilhelm offer framing eulogies, a call to arms and a more reflective and intimate summing up.

The surprise is, amidst the gloom and doom, how much excitement and development is going on in the field. Wireless is exploding along with its community applications, giving a real arena and visibility to the call for universal broadband. Blogs, podcasting, open source, and a host of new applications underlie a new vitality and excitement, further evidenced by the development of the Beehive, the relaunch of the Digital Divide Network, the promise of eBay Drop-Off Center community models, the birth of The Journal of Community Informatics, and the other contents of the current issue.

Among the other positive developments, the CTC VISTA project has received its earliest indication to date that we'll be continuing past 2005 — and maybe even have some growth possibilities — all to be confirmed and filled out more fully by the next issue. Meanwhile, the new VISTA Project web site, designed by Assistant Project Director (and CTR designer) Paul Hansen, reflects some of the project's new energy and development.

The current issue comes in at 25% larger than any previous issue, much of this thanks to the good work and efforts of Dan Schackman, new Assistant Editor. The ComTechReview is changing in other ways, too. Our thanks to Richard Civille, who has served as Co-Editor since 1999 up to this issue, and now joins the Editorial Advisory Board, whose full membership will be announced next issue. We'll continue to build on our hard copy-online integrated publishing, thanks again to Saul Baizman — note the highlighted text in the hard copy pages indicates buried links to web-sites in the online version, a style we hope you find combines both easy readability and immediate resource access. As always, we welcome your comments and contributions. -pm


The setbacks experienced this year by community technology were unfortunate, but unforeseen. We can use this opportunity though to become more efficient in the our funding practices, creating a more corporate environment, and focusing on the new technologies like wireless communication in the national community technology movement as a whole, so in conclusion I would change the term "Ups and Downs" and words like "sad" to "New challenges and New focuses" in our outlook to the future.

Posted by: Mike Denegal at February 9, 2005 02:43 PM

Mike, I do appreciate your comments and sentiments and apologize for the glitch that held up immediate posting of your message. Do let me comment back, especially since I’ve heard these kinds of sentiments elsewhere.

On the cover, the original title of the “TOP: The Legacy” was “Eulogies for TOP,” a phase I was urged to amend to something more positive in much the same way that your own comments urge that we shy away from thinking about such situations in terms of downers, sadness, and loss. The fact is, however, that there are downers, sadness, and losses, and that whether they are foreseen or not, we do best to face them directly as such. This can help us face the future with a much clearer vision and appreciation of the real stakes and possibilities.

Posted by: Peter Miller at February 24, 2005 05:18 PM
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