Local Community Panel

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Gus Cordova, Denise Blanchette, Robert Valen, Cathy McAleer, George Zopf

May 15, 1996
Reported by Emily Lenhart and Alison Atkins

This panel of local government officials, Hondo fire collaborators, and La Plaza users discussed the relevance and usefulness of the La Plaza Telecommunity in their daily lives.

Gus Cordova
Cordova was first introduced to the community networking idea about two years ago. Exploring local government sections, Cordova was impressed by the idea of direct community access to town council minutes, applications for building permits, and access to local laws and ordinances. Cordova saw this technology providing great opportunities for the Taos community, offering job announcements, business license applications, and requests for utilities' services, all online.

With the council's approval, Town Hall is now connected to the Internet as well as having its own internal network. Cordova feels that this technology has brought government closer to the townspeople; the network allows citizens direct interaction with government officials.

Denise Blanchette
Blanchette, an office manager for the La Plaza Telecommunity, initiated the coordination of La Plaza's Hondo fire page. This page quickly pulled together information from the Red Cross and the park service, giving local residents crucial information about the status and location of the fire. It demonstrated the usefulness of networking technologies for providing immediate information. La Plaza's quick response to this disaster has established them as a recognized resource for emergency information.

Bob Valen
An Information Officer from the U.S. Park Service, Valen's job is to communicate information to those affected by emergency situations. Valen thought media services provided good and accurate information in the Hondo fire disaster.

Cathy McAleer
An Internet instructor at UNM, McAleer has Internet accounts at Indiana University, UNM, and La Plaza. Yet between these resources, McAleer prefers La Plaza's friendly pages. McAleer also teaches a class on contemporary Chinese culture and makes use of listservs and La Plaza's TIN newsgroup to get advice and ask for commentary. McAleer would like to see more local newsgroups and cybercafes in addition to face-to-face sharing resources.

George Zopf A Taos resident and frequent La Plaza user, Zopf averages 2-3 messages a day on the La Plaza listserv. Zopf likes the Internet because self-publishing requires literacy but no marketing. He also is enthralled with the idea of receiving information, software, catalogs, articles, and conversation, from sources worldwide. Zopf also notes that the Internet provides a more cost-effective means of keeping in touch with long-distance friends. One drawback to the Internet is that people are less civil on paper. Zopf is also concerned about possible regulation of the Internet and feels self-regulation is best.

Questions and Answer
Q. What type of software is the town using?

A. Novell.

Q. How are you working to connect the rural areas?

A. La Plaza has identified rural high schools with current wiring as access points. They are hoping to establish these centers as mini-telecommunities, training local users to provide immediate support for these operations.

Q. I'm surprised that your local government was ahead of the game. Was it an easy sell?

A. Change is never accomplished easily. Although government administrators were willing to make a change, other employees were more reticent. La Plaza and other private companies were very helpful in providing training to government employees. Once users saw the benefits of the tools, they became much more receptive.

Q. What can CNs do for economic development?

A. As an art community, we can market our works visually by putting images online. Access to the Internet has brought more business into the area, including computer retail stores. The La Plaza Telecommunity's staff has grown from 3 to 20 employees. People who learn HTML and other computer skills are beginning to go into business for themselves.