The eCommons Project
Community Internet and Communication Technologies
Computers have been donated to project Lyttelton by Christchurch City Council and also by individuals. These have been serviced and upgraded running Microsoft Windows XP or Ubuntu 9 Linux.
Project Lyttelton, The Information Centre, Time Bank, Youth Centre, Community House, The Workingmans Club, Volcano Radio and other local organisations and people with a need have been given these computers.
The cost to the organisation has usually been free or the cost of some special equipment and occasionally a setup fee only if professional assistance is required.
Mobile Computer Suites
Project Lyttelton now has 2 mobile computer suites. These each comprise of 9 laptops and a projector.
Suite 1 Acer Laptops running Ubuntu 9.04 with a full suite of software including open office and Picasa
Suite 2 Dell Laptops running Windows 7 with Open Office & Adobe Photoshop Elements.
These 2 laptop suites are used primarily for the Local education classes but can also be rented for a nominal fee in full or part for other community classes, functions or demonstrations. (enquire with PL administration for availability and costs)
Many organisations these days need a website to promote their activities or share information. One of the hurdles at first can be, 'How do we get started?'
Project Lyttelton is renting high-quality and fast webhosting utilizing a virtual server based in Christchurch connected directly to the internet exchange. The server is maintained by All Things Web and PL pays a set annual fee. In turn PL has been offering hosting on the virtual server to other community groups to share the costs and deploy services without passing on development overheads.
Sharing 'expertise' and 'bandwidth' in this way helps give organisations access and some security they might have had to pay more for on their own. This kind of sharing goes beyond simply scale of economies to forging healthy community relations and respect.
Websites (AKA - Content Management Systems)
There are a wide range of websites these days, most of them cost several thousand to develop and often leave clients completely reliant of web developers to update. So the ecommon project has chosen to promote and teach groups to use Joomla!, a low cost website system that allows users to login, add and edit pages and alter content using a simple word processor interface. This website uses the Joomla Content Management System with a customized template to create a look which is professional and suits the aims of our group. The same system is also being used by the Lyttelton Harbour Information Centre by most of the websites listed above
As more local groups choose to use this system a new pool of knowledge grows that also builds on the basic principles of the ecommons. Other platforms such as blogger and wordpress are also important fee tools for getting a website up and running.
Social Networks are also important, Project Lyttelton has now signed up to a few
It's important for our community to reach a wide audience and do the best to promote our activities for anyone to discover.
Web Services on Virtual Servers
Web Services are very new to IT and are on the cutting edge of Community IT development. If you have worked in large organisations these are becoming more common and are usually a mix of intranet(internal networks) and remote server allowing employees to use company information from anywhere.
PL and the Information Centre are utilizing a range of these including;
- Online Booking System for keeping track of meeting rooms and community equipment
- Online Community Directory built on the vcard system used by most email programs so that a robust community database can be maintained
- Remote Access File Management to allow board and project members to store and access files on a secure server.
- Timebank Community Weaver trading software
- In the pipeline is a Secure Payment Gateway for online payment of membership, and products and services.
Project Lyttelton has a dedicated Google account, this is a great tool to add numerous Google services too. We mainly utilize google maps, google analytics, webmaster tools, google documents, and Picassa. These all help with keeping useful information in one place making share and managing resources easier. These services also assist in numerous ways to make online publishing quicker and full of multimedia . What a mashup!
Open Source Software
In building literacy in community groups there is a real opportunity to provide education and support, for open source software. Many of us are happy with what we know and we can spend hundreds of dollars thinking there are no other options. Here are some of the ones we use.
UBUNTU - While Microsoft and Apple computer systems are the norm, the ecommons project has also introduced Ubuntu, a free operating system that is extremely powerful, stable and loaded with software. As it almost never breaks down it is very helpful for groups who need to use it for simply accessing the internet or word processing. From a maintenance perspective it costs groups basically nothing to run and does not require all the security features of Windows as these are built in.
OPEN OFFICE - Open office is just fantastic, as powerful than microsoft office... and free... it comes with spell check and can save files in microsoft format and can even produce PDF files on the fly. Open office is also promoted by Senior Net.
MOZILLA FIREFOX & THUNDERBIRD - Simply the best Web browsing and a very good Email Software.
GOOGLE PICASA - Both a phot editor and online publisher (works with Youtube Too!)
SKYPE - Voice over internet (VOIP)
The range of Open Source software for windows operating system grows longer day by day, here is an excellent link to an opensource software website . http://www.opensourcewindows.org/
The cost of telephone lines, internet, cellphones, faxes and eftpos can become major costs for Not for Profit Organsiations. Another ecommon solution is VOIP. With a fancy broadband modem it is possible to use multiple telephone lines, faxes, internet, even eftpos. Companies like WorldxChange now provide this service. It can reduce annual costs by half, and you get all the addons like messaging, call waiting, forwarding, etc, without having to pay extra for each little service.
Another popular choice is Skype, this is a way of using the computer to talk to people around the country and world for free or at inexpensive rates.
ICT Education & Participation
While developing communication and internet tools there is a real need to build understanding as well as technique and so education plays an important role. Through Local Learning and the Timebank classes tuition is available to strengthening personal ICT skills. There are also opportunities to participate in by sharing your skills and knowledge by assisting with photos, writing, updating blogs SNS and planning for a sustainable future.