Virtual Neighbourhoods, Virtual Nations
Local Councils Making Communities

NET 24 - Case Study - Jo Byron
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The original idea for this presentation was to look at online councils and their communities in Australia, however early research indicated it would be more appropriate to look at this issue from an international angle and view the similarities/differences in approach. Consequently, I researched websites from Australia, America, England, Africa, and Asia, each site being distinct from the others, but all using very similar methods to engage their audience.

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In this presentation I've looked at what the similarities are between local council/e-government type websites in several different countries, if and why they are successful as community "spaces" and what techniques have been employed to encourage the sense of community.

Local authority sites link individual citizens, local groups, businesses and government together. These sites have evolved from a simple webpage listing services and telephone numbers into extensive websites carrying both static and dynamic content. Dynamic content is updated frequently and includes such things as news, regular "columns" for different local societies and community events. Static content may be historical information, lists of services, contact details etc. One of the easiest ways for a council to destroy the site is to allow out-of-date information to linger. Stale data gives the impression of a total lack of interest by the publisher of the site and if they do not display interest, why should anyone else?

Successful sites need to give the impression of being "alive" and reflecting the movement and activities of the community. Generally, I found that most of the local councils were managing to achieve this. This is probably largely due to result of the world becoming more Net savvy and also the fact that over the past
24 months,
e-government has received more attention and consequently more funding
(Yesha and Singhal, 2003).