When I was thinking about what message I might write to NCF members this year, it struck me that the NCF is not often thought of as “leading edge” but you know, we really should be.
Being out in front and bringing good things to Ottawa has always been a FreeNet tradition. 11 years ago a group of forward thinking pioneers, visionaries in my opinion, founded the National Capital FreeNet. At that time, the word “Internet” was unknown and FreeNet was the first, and only way that people in Ottawa could communicate with others electronically. As it turned out, the organization wasn’t well organized in those early years for keeping abreast of advances and technology developments overtook us.
Increasingly, people in Ottawa adopted the Internet into their daily lives and using email and surfing the web became commonplace. In order to revitalize our original information and communication tools, and to offer services more in keeping with the so-called “information Age” we were successful in securing grants from both Federal and Provincial governments to develop new applications and services. Now we are seeing the fruits of those grants and the enhancements which they enabled and once again, we are "with it" with our new services -- now we need people to build content using the now-current tools, just as our early members did in 1992 As in the beginning, we can help people be in touch with each other, and now that we can provide the tools to do it, we can rekindle our role in building a healthy interactive community.
Throughout 2003, the NCF Development Team worked on making a whole suite of online services available; several of these are well ahead of commercial offerings. We have a history of introducing new technology and concepts and our new services are an excellent example of this in action.
These new offerings will knock the socks off anyone who tries them. A personal start page for every member leading to communication tools, software, discussion, news, and much more, is reminiscent of the early days of FreeNet where all members logged in to the FreeNet space and really understood that they were part of the NCF community. Nowhere else but in Ottawa is a platform available with such a feature-rich suite of online services for every citizen and community organization, just for a small donation. Moreover, the new platform builds on a solid tradition, of not only making the latest technology easy to use and available for everyone, but providing a great way of connecting with each other, thus giving us all the tools to build our communities.
As much as I am proud to have had my part in envisioning these projects, I am delighted that our Executive Director John Selwyn and his team have made the dream a reality. John, who is known for his team-building approach and for getting things done, put together a development team on a par with the best in the world, and the resulting products that we recently launched at our 11th Birthday celebration will be not only be envied by other community networks, but once they learn about the power of our SPAM elimination system and other tools, I’m sure that commercial providers will want to take a leaf from our book as well.
These exciting new services herald a renewed interest in the NCF, surely a 25% membership increase to 8,500 members in February suggests that you our members are excited too.
This is indeed a time for every NCFer to be proud to be a part of communications history in the making. We have created something truly valuable for our community, we have demonstrated that we can develop leading edge services and we have done it all locally.