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228 Thompson


Table 1. Proposed functionality for YARN

Functionality Description

Discussion Have your say, share information, ask questions,
Forum or just find out what people are talking about.
Event Check out what events are available nationwide,
Calendar promote your events and get free publicity on
YARN.
News Page Where you can submit news that you would like
young people to know about.
People Listing Look up who has been involved in AFFA's YPIRI
program, and get in contact with them.
Have Your Respond to draft policy posted on the site, or post
Say information for consultation and feedback by
young people.
Free Web Promote non-government organisations for young
Page people in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, food and
natural resource management.




Table 2. Web site survey results for YARN

Very Somewh Neutral, Not
Type of Useful at Useful or particularly
Functionality unsure useful
% % %
%
Events calendar 81 14 5 0
Member listing 69 31 0 0
Discussion forum 63 28 5 4
Document library 54 28 13 5
Site builder for 46 36 9 9
NGOs

Source: www.affa.gov.au/content/ind_dev/youthsurvey.cfm




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Online Services and Regional Web Portals 229


communicated to graduates via email and to others by making the result available on the
AFFA Web site.
Strategies of “engage early” and “communicate innovatively” were embraced by AFFA
in implementing the YARN project (Department of Agriculture Fisheries & Forestry
Australia, 2002). The response from graduates supported findings from earlier research
which identified the benefit of getting young people involved early in a project:


Young women and men are likely to give new approaches and mediums a go.
They are more inclined to get involved if they can play a role in the direction
setting/planning stage, rather than if they are simply invited to participate at
the consultative stage. That is, they want to be part of driving direction rather
than reacting to it (Department of Agriculture Fisheries & Forestry Australia,
2002, p.16).


When the survey results were disseminated, graduates were thanked for their participa-
tion and advised that AFFA would contact them during the next week to seek contribu-
tions for content for the site. Graduates were assured that submitting content would not
be a complex process. Publishing information on the events calendar, news section, or
providing information about the rural networks or organisations they were involved in,
would be no more difficult than the online survey they had participated in.
Regular communication with graduates continued throughout the very short develop-
ment period for the YARN project. Graduates were, for example, provided with access
to the development site and asked for feedback on its design, navigation and function-
ality. They each received individual user names and passwords and were given
instructions on how to access the graduates™ area of the Web site and how to begin
submitting content in the lead-up to its official launch on the 27 August 2002.
Initial publicity associated with the launch of YARN included the issuing of a press
release, direct email notification to key people such as the presidents and/or convenors
of organisations for young people, and a front-page link and news story on the Federal
Government entry point at www.fed.gov.au. The key message was for young people to
“get online and get involved,” to “take pride” in their views, ideas and achievements and
to “watch the awareness grow amongst government and industry” of their valuable
contributions (Truss, 2002, p.1).
Longer-term promotion has been achieved through the fortnightly e-newsletter of the
Rural Industries Leadership Section of AFFA and by and providing all new graduates
of the YPIRI program with publishing and member access on YARN. Organisations that
use the “site builder” tool also promote YARN through their web address (see, for
example, the Bush Capital Club at www.yarn.gov.au/sites/BCC).
A key strategy has also been to ensure that site visitors are actively engaged when they
visit the site. This is being achieved by providing multiple opportunities for participation
and involvement, for example, by contribution or starting an online discussion, building
a site, adding a link, publishing events or suggesting new items.
During the 12 months since its official launch, YARN has received over 237,000 hits,
18,900 unique visits and provided users with more than 53,500 page views. Figure 4


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230 Thompson


Figure 3: YARN “ August 2002




illustrates how visits fell from the initial levels experienced at the time of the site launch.
Visitation statistics began to gradually increase in the early months of 2003. Significant
increases were then experienced during April and May.
This increase in site visitation coincided with the launch of GATEway, an opportunities
reference database which has been incorporated into the existing Web site and promo-
tional activities such as the issuing of a press release by the Federal Minister for AFFA.
The reference tool provides young people with a centrally housed information database
of relevant government and non-government programs, awards, events and training
opportunities. The initial database content was contributed by members of the Young
People in Rural Industries Working Group, but since the GATEway application has gone
“live,” other agencies and organisations have been invited to publish information.
While the application design is very functional, it is simple to enter information and users
are able to interrogate the database in a number of ways, for example, by using key terms
or by entering one or more qualifiers to narrow their search as required. Selections can
then be collated and printed in PDF quality format. The increase in site utilisation as
measured by page views indicates that site visitors were exploring more areas of the site.
In the months of June and July there has been some reduction in the levels of site
utilisation from the peak experienced in May 2003.
The next upgrade for YARN is currently in the planning stage. Objectives and outcomes,
graduate and visitor feedback, site statistics and other available information will
continue to be regularly reviewed to identify further opportunities for enhancement to
better ensure that YARN can meet the information and communication needs of AFFA
and young people in rural industries.


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Online Services and Regional Web Portals 231


Figure 4. Usage statistics for YARN August 2002“2003


14000



12000



10000
Monthly Totals




8000



6000



4000



2000



0
Aug S ep Oct Nov Dec Jan F eb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug

Aug 2002 - Aug 2003
Visits Pages




Conclusions
The case studies for Ararat Online and YARN have highlighted a number of factors that
have impacted and influenced their development. Collaboration with a regional Univer-
sity has also been an important factor in the renewal and growth of each of these portal
initiatives. In terms of infrastructure, challenges have been reduced by the availability
of a comprehensive portal platform and toolset, which has been specifically designed to
meet regional and rural needs, particularly the skills and infrastructure gaps which often
exist. Initiatives have then been sustained by putting community members in charge of
the management of their online services. Through this model, local ownership and the
sustainability of infrastructure and technical support services have been achieved by
effectively aggregating demand for CI services.
Key factors in sustaining regional CI initiatives appear to be directly related to the level
of ownership that can be provided to stakeholders and site users, the ability for multiple
users to contribute, publish and maintain the web-based information, and finally the
degree to which web-based applications are tailored to meet the particular business or



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232 Thompson


community purpose. These finding are consistent with findings in the business-to-
business context. For example the report entitled, B2B E-Commerce Capturing Value
Online identified that “ultimately, the point of success is where industry can see the
broad-based business case¦and then take initiatives forward” (National Office for the
Information Economy, 2001).
Communities, however, just like businesses, require assistance in identifying the most
appropriate online services for their particular circumstances. Policies which encourage
communities to enter collaborative partnerships, which leverage existing infrastructure,
knowledge and learning should thus be seen as preferable to the funding of discrete
stand-alone initiatives. Well-developed and well-implemented online services can make
a positive contribution to the future of regional and rural communities. Case studies,
such as those presented in this chapter, are effective in illustrating the impacts,
influences and challenges that can be experienced in operationalizing and sustaining
regional community informatics initiatives.




Endnote
1
The author acknowledges Dr. Brian West from the University of Ballarat who has
been generous in the provision of advice and encouragement that greatly assisted
in the preparation of this work.




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permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.
Online Services and Regional Web Portals 235


Appendix 1
University of Ballarat URLs
University of Ballarat www.ballarat.edu.au
CECC www.cecc.com.au


MainStreet portal URL
Mainstreet.net.au www.mainstreet.net.au

Geographical portal URLs examples
Ararat Online www.ararat.asn.au
Moorabool Online www.mconline.com.au
Pyrenees Online www.pyreneesonline.com.au


Membership based communities URLs examples
Birchip Cropping Group www.bcg.org.au
Young Australian Rural Network www.yarn.gov.au
Rural Regional Research Network www.cecc.com.au/rrrn
Pyrenees Hay Processors www.exporthay.com
Central Highlands Exporters www.growexport.com

Comprehensive Web site URLs examples
Ballarat A Learning City www.ballaratlearningcity.com.au
Central Highlands Area Consultative
Committee www.chacc.com.au
Pyrenees Shire www.pyrenees.vic.gov.au
Regional Connectivity Project www.regionalconnectivity.org




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permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.
236 Borbora




Chapter XII



ICT Growth
and Diffusion:
Concepts, Impacts
and Policy Issues in the
Indian Experience with
Reference to the
International Digital Divide
Saundarjya Borbora
Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India




Abstract
This chapter examines the role of technology in economic and social development in
developing countries, with a particular emphasis on India as an example. The concepts
of ICT growth and ICT diffusion are examined. From this the chapter reviews the Indian
government™s successful policies encouraging ICT Growth through the support of the
export-oriented service industry. This industry has witnessed long-term growth primarily
as the result of the increasing tradability and consequent internationalisation made
possible by changes in ICTs. However, the export focus policy has created enclaves
within the Indian economy without significant forward and backward linkages.

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