National Capital FreeNet / Libertel de la Capitale nationale

Executive Director's Report

For the year of 2011

Hello NCF Members,

2011 has been a significant year for NCF. For me, assuming the role of Executive Director has been an exciting opportunity to make a difference with an organization which I have known since the early 1990's.

My first week in October involved a thorough cleaning of the office recycling old obsolete gear and adjusting office furniture to better accomodate staff, volunteers and visiting members. I reached out to connect with partner organizations and engaged in a dialog about NCF in the community.

We also took a close look at everything we do with DSL modems - prices, suppliers, manufacturer and reliability. We were able to find a modern, robust supplier with good supply-chain tools and responsiveness to fundamental questions and with some testing we introduced new modems for our members, extending a substantial price saving. I am happy to see that our members are experiencing good reliability.

We also reworked our internal tools to better manage modem orders, configurations and inventory. We replaced a system that made it hard to track our stock with one that makes management easy, and configuration straightforward. We also updated our documentation and help information.

We made broader changes across our office tools - which were already an impressive, robust system - to better detect and track problems with setup, cancellations and billing. Members have noticed that there are now easy ways to see your own bill and usage online now too, contributing to our goal to improve transparency.

With volunteer help analysing member feedback we know that we are indeed connecting well with people of diverse backgrounds and abilities. Over 40% of our members have some special or challenging circumstances. Our on-going commitment to affordable, donation-based dial-up connectivity is important for many. We are also doing a better job of reminding everyone that their dial-up and email service costs NCF money, and a contribution, even a small one, is important in making it possible for us to continue to offer service to people of varying means.

It's not always easy for members to get in touch with us - but we're doing incrementally better there now too. With more volunteers in the office you can get help on the phone easier. Voice messages left when we're all engaged now go directly into our trouble ticket tracking system so there are fewer missed problems. Our Office Message system continues to be the best way to get help short of connecting live on the phone or coming into the office in person.

The computing landscape is changing dramatically. We have members who don't own a computer but rather do all their interaction from an iPad or Playbook over an NCF wireless modem/router. Many members are users of social media, and have found my twitter account at @ncfottawa. Mobile device users also enjoy our new Zimbra mail platform, which delivers a compact, mobile-friendly mail presentation from well suited to the small screen.

In general, members tell us that they are pleased with our improved webmail system Zimbra, but we recognize that there are some who are finding the change a challenge. We are improving our help resources and our staff and volunteers are learning to better help you in getting familiar with the new interface.

Finally, most notable in terms of contributions this year has been you, our members. You have been welcoming to me, and supportive of my efforts to make NCF a more effective and resilient service and community-participant. Many of you responded quickly and generously to our appeal for donations in support of infrastructure upgrades, allowing us to surpass our $25,000 funding challenge as the year wound up. That money has helped us offset the costs of new equipment now installed and some yet to come.

I have high hopes for NCF in 2012. I expect we will continue to do better at responding to our members, continue to solidify our financial status, and make a meaningful impact in the community.



Ross Kouhi
Executive Director
National Capital FreeNet