National Capital FreeNet / Libertel de la Capitale nationale

Michael Williamson

Michael Williamson grew up in Toronto and studied both at Victoria College, University of Toronto, and the University of British Columbia where he received a Masters in Information Science. While at the U of T, he was fortunate to study with Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye-- polar opposites in many ways but both influential and charismatic, and both a unique blend of conceptual and theoretical thinkers. As a public librarian at the Toronto Public Library, he worked in the first community-based branch in Canada and was instrumental in setting up literacy programs and local information collections with a community focus. Michael moved to British Columbia and worked in public libraries there before moving on to the National Library in Ottawa, where he was Chief Of Reference Services and instrumental in setting up the literary manuscript collections and working with many Canadian authors in research endeavours.

Michael has been an active volunteer for many years--in food banks, environmental groups, coaching soccer and baseball for young people, hospitals, and local politics. He was also a founding member of the Coalition for Public Information in Toronto, and the Alliance for a Connected Canada and Public Space Steering Committee in Ottawa. He has been engaged in net-related public access issues for the past decade. In 1998, he led the Community Learning Networks initiative at HRDC and funded most of Canada's community networks.

Currently he is in Strategic Policy at HRDC and is working on community learning issues and e-Learning applications in communities, the workplace and the post secondary education sector

What skills will you contribute to the NCF Board?

Wide experience with net issues from public access to technical infrastructure. Familiarity with the history of the community networking movement in Canada in general and the NCF in particular. Considerable management experience, experience as a funder for the NFP sector, experience working with the volunteer sector and all levels of government. I am an effective consensus-builder and team player and believe strongly in community networking values married to a business-like sustainable approach to managing funds and fund-raising in general..

What do you think are the most important functions of NCF for its members?

Well, first and foremost, the NCF should provide affordable and easy access to the community network and internet for community members. Local content and communities of interest should be encouraged so that the NCF remains a vital part of the Ottawa community. Partnership development is a major function of the NCF and this should continue to develop and flourish. Good service, responsiveness, inclusivity and creativity are all important to the continuing success of NCF.

Why do you want to be an NCF director?

I continue to believe strongly in community networking values of equitable access and local relevance and empowerment. The issues surrounding public access are more vital than ever as the Internet continues to be commercialized and broadband applications are being marketed by the private and public sector: how to make these applications responsive to the public good will be a challenge. The sustainability of the NCF is crucial because it is one of the most important community nets in the country and a model of how it should be and can be done--I can contribute to this process via my experience and commitment. I would look forward to working with colleagues on the Board and being accountable for our collective decisions. I think continuing success is attainable and exciting and I want to be part of that.

Michael Williamson