Virtual Neighbourhoods, Virtual Nations
Local Councils Making Communities

NET 24 - Case Study - Jo Byron
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subjects of interest to the community. It is probably this tool which single-handedly progresses the online community as it allows interaction between residents, creates diaologue and engages interest in local community issues. It is a little surprising that more councils do not offer this service as it perpetuates a focusing on, and an awareness of, the site. It is likely that financial restrictions and administration problems are the reason.

Most councils allow users to download standard forms and some publications from their site, however of the sites examined, not one had the facility to allow direct uploading of files. The assumption could be made that this is an issue of security and space (on the local server), however it could also quite simply be that the necessity is not there. Where councils provide online forms, there is often no need for other files to be uploaded as they collect all their information from the form.

Some sites provide sophisticated self-service facilities such as payment of bills online (rates, rents, utilities), although this does not seem to be the norm yet. One functionality that did appear popular was the ability to subscribe to electronic regional newsletters, another good way to keep the community informed and cohesive.

Research unearthed a rather handy interactive service, which was renewing library books and searching

library shelves from the comfort of your home! (http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/librar/libindex.htm).

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The local council sites that were researched encouraged participation in an online community through the utilisation of interactive technology. Although some of the sites were fairly weak in this aspect, they all demonstrated some kind of interactivity, even if it was just an email facility. The more advanced websites include an online forum or noticeboard where the community can publish opinions and suggestions on a variety of