Wellington IT support planning begins tomorrow

At the Wellington Region 2020 Communications Trust we’ve been talking about introducing an e-Rider service for local not-for-profit organisations. There are a large number of organisations in the region, and we’ve got anecdotal evidence suggesting many organisations have unmet IT support needs and the e-Rider is the best way of responding to needs.

To make sure we don’t jump to the wrong conclusion and design an IT support organisation that isn’t needed, I’ve offered to facilitate a few meetings to help us decide on priorities and a design a participatory development approach.

I’ve been talking with people working in some local umbrella organisations and local government agencies about meeting to discuss needs and opportunities. The response has been positive so we’re meeting tomorrow. A dozen or so RSVPs have been received, including from three of us on the Trust.

In preparation for tomorrow, I’ve just been re-reading Randy Stoecker’s article on ”The Foundation of Community Information Technology: Community-Based Research” which appeared in the last issue of Community Technology Review, because I think we’ll need to undertake some new research.

Randy emphasises the need to be careful about jumping to technology solutions too soon, as the needs of not-for-profit organisations may relate more to information than to IT. These needs may be better addressed using non-technological approaches. As we have decided to engage with local organisations and community advisors working with them, I’m prepared for a different set of information and technology needs to emerge. It’s best we have clear agreement and buy-in from the outset, or a solution we devise is not likely to succeed.

If we can reach agreement on the focus of a project and people do have both time and energy, we will look to bid into the new New Zealand Digital Strategy Community Partnership Fund. Although the criteria and application process for the fund has not been officially released, proposals are widely anticipated to be requested before Christmas.

However, we need to be careful that we don’t rush to meet a deadline but fail to develop a sound approach. It’s probably better we create a strong base and think about diverse funding sources, rather than becoming dependent on a single source of funds.

I am doing this facilitation work as volunteer Trustee, while working full-time in a demanding role supporting capacity building through-out the country. My hope is that we’ll be able to find a way of sharing any ongoing tasks and responsibilities, as I doubt I can sustain intensive involvement. In some ways I see my role as a catalyst. Someone to help get things going and facilitate agreement about how to work together and for what ends. Time will tell.

I’ll try to write a blog entry after the meeting tomorrow while my immediate reactions are still fresh. Now, it’s time for sleep.

[Originally published on the Digital Divide Network in September 2005.]