Community technology from home of the big spud

The computers at the Robertson Community Technology Centre (CTC) are named after potatoes. Pontiac, chips and mash are among the names of the PCs and Macs you’ll find. I learnt about all of this and more on the most recent edition of “The Buzz”, a technology focused programme broadcast on demand from Australia’s National Radio website (and live on air every Saturday at 8am for folk in Australia).

The Robertson CTC opened in May this year as part of a network of 83 community IT hubs in NSW. It sounds very well equipped with video-conferencing, powerful G5 Macs for multimedia work, and a training suite. According to the co-manager, Melissa Shepherd, the facility is as much a community hub as it is about IT.

There are regular film screenings and art exhibitions in the cafe space, and talk of a piano sitting alongside the technology. People are welcome to drop-in for a yarn.

Richard Aedy talked to some regular users who seemed very happy to have such a good resource in their small town. The CTC is 25km for the nearest library and one and half hours from Sydney. It’s early days for the Centre, and Melissa Shepherd admitted the facility wasn’t being full utilised. The first two years are funded by state and central governments – will be interesting to see what progress they make in coming months.

The other segment of 2nd October edition of the “The Buzz” was a quick review of Australian political party websites in the lead up to the 16 October election. Susan Wolfe, Managing Director of The Hiser Group usability and user-design company, based her assessment of the websites on principles of usability.

Top points went to the Greens, who were commended for the biggest improvement. Even so, according to the Hiser Group’s detailed report (which is freely available online) there were no clear leaders. A common criticism of the other party websites is a lack of clear structure with too many choices.

Keep an eye on The Buzz’s programme schedule as Richard Aedy covers topics related to activist and community use of innovations and new technology.

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