WATPA: FW: Building and Launching Regional Database

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From: Norman J. Jacknis (njacknis@ix.netcom.com)
Date: Mon Oct 25 1999 - 22:08:45 EDT

Thought this might be of interest. It looks a little like what we have
been working on for the last couple of years. (I already passed along some
of our experience to these folks.)


Subject: Building and Launching Regional Database
From: "Jon Darling" <jdarling+@pitt.edu>
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 23:34:48

My name is Jon Darling. I am a Professor of Sociology and (part-time)
Director of the Office of Community Outreach at Pitt-Johnstown. Last
Friday, we opened the first two components (of what will be four) of
a relational informational database designed to serve up to ten
counties of southwest central Pennsylvania. The database site
is: <http://www.civicaction.org>. We maintain an informational site
at <http://continuing-ed9.upj.pitt.edu/can/index.html> and a page
that describes the activities of the Office of Community Outreach at

Our purpose is to serve as a regional electronic platform for
community entities (including businesses, governmental
entities, neighborhood associations and groups, hobby groups and
civic clubs of all sorts, communities of faith, public and
non-public schools, colleges and universities, economic and
community development organizations, etc.) to register (FREE) by

completing a core database form that will then leverage information
across and within four functionalities: an Electronic Community
Yellow Pages, an Electronic Community Calendar, an Electronic
Community Volunteer Center, and an Electronic Community Services
Directory. The latter two will not be on-line until November or

As may be true in many areas of the country, community knowledge
and information is seriously fragmented here. This database is
designed to help defragment all that information and place it close
to people's hands as needed. For those on the worn side of the
digital divide, we have affiliations with seven major public
access computer labs and we keep tabs on the locations and operating
hours of another 70 public access machines toward which to direct
those without private access. We operate two of those site ourselves
in partnership with three community entities.

The chief obstacle we face is not the technology (although that
is expensive and difficult to sustain); it is (as anyone in this
field knows) traditional existing human relationships and mind sets.
For example, as powerful as the database structure is, we will have
a tough job of getting all the entities listed above to realize the
value of having such a regional platform as this populated with their
data for the region and the whole world to see. To make matters even
more difficult, THEY (not we) have to assume the responsibility to populate
the database with the necessary information. We do all we can
to assist them (including holding hands and coaching them in workshops
if necessary).

I am writing because we want to do more to network with other
community projects with similar design and/or goals. I am interested
in any suggestions you may have to offer to point us in proper
directions. We are especially interested in knowing if another
community has done what we are attempting to achieve, and if so where
and with what successes and failures.

Thanks in advance for any feedback you are able to provide.

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