Using The Web For Your Community
There are plenty of good ways to inform the people in your community and the outside about news and events. Flyers and posters help, along with newsletters and press releases. They’re fine, but they only reach a number of people. Even handbills distributed house to house by community groups don’t always reach everybody.
All the above methods have major drawbacks – they take money and time. There’s the cost of printing, and time in the distribution. But more and more, the idea of community is turning to the Web in order to let people know what they’re doing. Nowadays, it’s common for a community and community groups to have a website that’s regularly updated.
The Advantage of the Community WebsiteYes, it takes time to set up a good community website, and time to keep it updated. But that’s very small in comparison to the effort and cost of disseminating news via other methods, and communities and local government often work together to ease the finances involved in designing and hosting the community site.
What makes a website so good for a community? It reaches a lot of people at a very low per capita cost, and it can be updated as often as needed. You can bring it up to date on an hourly basis if need be – although that’s hardly likely for the average community.
It also encourages input and reports from community members, and can be used to display interaction between communities and local government – the results of meetings and so on – in a way that other delivery methods can’t. You can be as full or as brief as you like on a website, since it’s a forum where space is no problem.
It’s quite feasible that as part of the main community website, different community groups could have their own pages, given them a greater voice and access to more people without and outside the community.
The Problems with a Community WebsiteThe greatest problem with a community website is that it’s not going to reach all the members of a community. By its very nature, the only people who can access it are those who own computers and have Internet access, which means that a lot of older people (traditionally the group least likely to own computers and be online) and those who simply can’t afford computers could seem excluded by the move.
That means a community can’t rely exclusively on the Web as a way of disseminating information. It can be the centrepiece of the strategy, but it can only be the main prong of many. A community will still need to identify and inform those who can’t get information from the Web.
Additionally, to keep the website running properly, a community will need someone familiar enough with technology to add news, articles, links, and all the other jobs involved in keeping a site up do date, as well as a backup person for when the primary person isn’t available. On top of that, an IT person, or at least access to IT facilities, are necessary to take care of the inevitable glitches (although partnerships between communities and local government mean that a community will have access to local government IT staff).
That said, there’s no doubt that a community website is a good thing, working with a modern form for the modern age, and especially useful in more spread-out rural communities. The age of the community website is definitely here.