This second volume of the Compendium of Community Informatics
(CI) texts ("CI Open Text Archive") is devoted the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region.
The overall objective of this long-term global project is to
create an open-archive, multilingual, peer reviewed/filtered
"text", that will grow organically as Information and
Communication Technologies (ICTs) become ever more implanted as
a means for enabling local communities in both developing and
developed countries to develop and flourish economically,
socially and culturally. The website of the project is
Historically, it has happened that the first edition of the
Compendium was also published in Russia, In the framework of the
BIC2003 (Building the Information Commonwealth) international
conference (June-July, 2003, St. Petersburg,
Nevertheless, the first issue was primarily devoted to
"international" (outside of the CIS) CI experience. This
second volume is meant to provide material from the CIS which
was absent from the first.text.
Since the first volume was published there have been a number of
important CI-related developments around the globe. The first
which should be mentioned is the formal establishment of the
Community Informatics Research Network (CIRN), (http://www.ciresearch.net).
Currently there are some 300+ individuals and organizations
associated with the Network representing all continents, and
more than 50 countries, with research qualifications in Computer
Science, Information Science, Social Science, Planning,
Management, Development Studies, and Social Administration among
others and including universities and colleges, NGO's, the
private sector and governments and multilateral agencies. There
are also CIRN affiliated research networks in Canada, the
Commonwealth of Independent States, Latin America and the
Caribbean, and South Africa and networks being developed in
Australia, the UK and the United States among others.
That Community Informatics has achieved the recognition it has
with such speed indicates that it is providing a useful response
to some of the deep social economic, cultural, and technological
changes that are taking place in contemporary societies as
globalization and the ICT revolution continues to reshape the
world, local communities are presented with an increasingly
complex mix of opportunities and challenges. Many if not most of
these challenges (training for new economy jobs, responding to
pressures on traditional values, managing the results of
economic dislocation) are best addressed at the local and
regional levels by those locally who understand the needs of,
and the factors affecting, particular communities and how and
where technology may be most effectively used in response.
CI is an interdisciplinary approach to providing an answer to
these long-term research, development and policy-making needs
and the issues surrounding the applications and implications of
ICTs. CI addresses the connections between academic theory and
research, and the policy and pragmatic issues arising from
responding to the Digital Divide as for example through
Community Networks, Community Technology Centres, Telecentres,
Community Communications Centres, and Telecottages. Emergent CI
issues include: access, community economic development, social
cohesion, and learning.
Thus, CI research and practice is based on a platform of locally
derived information and experience combined with the means to
link these to the specific local context and to the broad range
of social and technical theory and application.
In response to a perceived social need in the most of developed
countries significant programs have been undertaken in recent
years to establish a contemporary community information
infrastructure based on the use of modern ICTs and particularly
the Internet and including for example, public Internet access
sites in libraries, schools and other public places, websites
providing access to public and governmental information,
training programs in ICT use and application in various
organizational and other contexts among others..
As for the post-soviet region, there is a wide spread hope that
юf an ICT-based development strategy is nowadays the most
for effective social changes and interventions at the local
level in many Russian
and CIS urban communities.
At the same time, well known experts in the area have expressed the opinion that most
of the CIS countries lack data and serious research about the
consequences of implementing IC technologies in support of
social processes, social development and social stability
(especially at local level).
This publication is one of the first attempts to cover this
absence. Authors in this publication bring together various
aspects of the process of implementing ICTs in governmental and
non-governmental organizations and communities. Particularly, we
have tried to focus special attention on the theme of the
involvement in the use of ICTs of different socially excluded
groups (such as those with low incomes, low levels of education,
new immigrants and national minorities etc.) as a way of
highlighting possible opportunities for achieving through ICT
use a radical in their economic and social situation, and as a
means to overcome growing social injustice in the CIS.
Based on these principles, we have given space in this edition
not only to,representatives of more "traditional" sociological
and political sciences but also to "ICT-oriented" scholars and
practitioners. We believe that this is an essential step in the
development of a "CI agenda" for the CIS.
The reason for this is that it is widely known that, many of
those "western-funded" projects which have tried to transfer well-recommended western
social technologies and approaches to post-soviet world, appear to lack the
capacity to survive and were unsustainable both socially and financially.
While serious research has been done in the study of the
perspectives of Internet development in the region, there is practically no information
or systematic research currently that provides multi-dimensional
socio-cultural insight on a complicated picture of ICTs as
"agents and sources of innovations" at the local level: how do
various diverse community-based organizations (e.g. local
administrations, schools, libraries, NGOs, business etc.) adapt
ICTs for their needs; what factors can create an "innovation
climate" in the territory; what are the social impacts of a new
info-structure at the local level and so on.
Certainly, these are key tasks for the region. In the last years
the Authors have collaborated (through participation and
observation) on several R&D projects
directed to incorporating innovative community-based information
systems such as community networks, telecentres, local e-health
and e-governments systems etc. into the everyday life of local
residents with an overall goal of stimulating community
development through using new technologies.
Often however, we have met with significant difficulties in
achieving the projects' goals due to a variety of social-cultural barriers, such as an
unwillingness to use e-based service systems from local administrations (or finding
that the goals of the systems are different from those publicly presented); a lack of
local volunteers to support created systems (and, therefore a lack of
sustainability) and so on.
Often it would seem that this results because many such projects
are not based on the natural trends of social activity of local dwellers and
appears to a large extent alien to their everyday concerns and wishes and thus the
efforts don't gain the necessary support "from the bottom".
No doubt these factors create serious obstacles to the
successful integration of the countries of the former Soviet Union into the global
information society, leaving those countries on the wrong side of the so-called
'digital divide' with the on-going risks of economic and political instability.
We hope this edition will help CIS and international
researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and others to
understand the variety and multi-dimensionality of the current
situation with community-based ICTs in the CIS and help to
stimulate new developments in this area.
When the volume was in printing there was a new important step
in development "CI-agenda" for the Russia and CIS: Research
and Methodological workshop on the theory and practice of
Community Informatics in the CIS countries that was held in the
Instutite of System Analysis of the Russian Academy of Sciences
(Moscow, June 23-25, 2004) with participation of number of
leading specialists from both Russia/CIS and overseas.
One of the most important decisions was establishment of the CI
Research Alliance for Community Informatics and Networking
(RUCIN). More information can be found at
http://www.communities.org.ru/rucin (I will make a webpage after