Winter-Spring 2002

Editors' Introduction: Community Technology in a Post 9-11 World
by Richard Civille and Peter Miller

The rapid expansion of community technology programs ended well before September 11. The slow-down began with the burst of the dot-com bubble. But 9-11 contributed to the slowdown in its own ways. In our new, security-driven economy, all social welfare, low-income assistance, and community revitalization efforts have been cutback in the face of new budget and policy priorities aimed at "homeland security," and there's less work being done on the bridge across the digital divide.

Yet technology in service of community building is still a powerful draw for those who care about these matters. "Alive and Well, Not in Manhattan Today as Planned," read the Online Registry, as Karen Zgoda reports and goes on to summarize the spate of useful online resources and approaches developed in the wake of 9-11 itself. Community technology has taken its hits, but continues apace.

Funding for two key federal programs that support community technology has declined this year, and are proposed for elimination next year. The Department of Education's Community Technology Centers program, funded at $65 million in FY '01, will receive $32.5. The Technology Opportunities Program, housed under the Department of Commerce's National Technology Infrastructure Administration, receives $15 million ... down 65% from $45 million in FY '01. This may be the final year for these programs unless Congress is convinced otherwise. For a fuller and more nuanced discussion, see Ryan Turner's "Mixed Picture" policy assessment piece.

Yet in the face of these changes in the world and in the funding frameworks and public policy that support community technology, our work is growing and becoming more important. The people who have made it their business to conceive, fund-raise and manage community technology programs are meeting more frequently, in larger numbers, and in different countries. "Community informatics," an emerging, interdisciplinary academic discipline, reveals the intersection of our work with economics, computer science, sociology and community development, with degree programs beginning to appear around the world, as Michael Gurstein shows us.

Last summer's CTCNet's conference drew 800 to San Diego and this June's gathering in Austin may be even larger. Four years of rural-based community technology meetings held at the Aspen Institute in Colorado have developed into a nationwide Rural Telecommunications Congress that will meet next fall in Washington, DC. The memberships of key associations such as the Association for Community Networking have grown by 40% over the past year. The Global Citizens Network Consortium which met in December in Buenos Aires drew nearly 500 even in the face of that country's recent difficulties, as Doug Schuler reports. Plans are underway for next year's Montreal conference and the International Telecommunications Union's involvement in the 2003 World Summit on the Information Society marks that as an important gathering, too. These and other indicators show that the community technology movement is vital and world-wide.

So it's a time of consolidation and shaking out rather than continued meteoric growth, and the Community Technology Review is moving quite well along those lines. We're pleased with the reception we have been given and to have found a key Community Building theme that helps direct our editorial efforts and call for material, one that's been so successful that we'll continue with this for the next issue. We're hopeful this issue's interactive components – giving our readers and the community of practitioners the opportunity to send articles to colleagues, comment on them, and add to our ongoing resource development will contribute not just to the Review but to the growing vitality of the field.

– pm & rc

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