Humans have always had a desire to connect with each other and share information. Speech, the written word, cable, radio waves and light have all over time carried our messages to each other.
The Karamea community is currently connected through a variety of mediums including:
The well established bush telegraph consisting usually of neighbours talking over the fence or on the phone and often subject to a good dose of Chinese whispers.
The fortnightly publication of the Chronicle with a long history of keeping the community informed of the many elements of life in Karamea both past and present.
The notice board outside the hardware store. Pierced with thousands of holes from pins from years and years of notes posted at will by people wishing to get a message out to the folk passing through the town shopping centre.
These mediums are time honoured, successful and essential forms of communication for locals. For those new to the town they offer an insight into the vibrant community that exists in this corner of the world. Now it seems it is time to also connect this community to the global village and to each other through the wonders of the world wide web.
As the unbroken chain of fibre optic cable snakes its way out from urban centres, remote townships such as Karamea are given the opportunity to harness the exciting technological tools of modern data transfer at an affordable price. Communications in the form of text, photo and audio can be almost instantaneously uploaded or downloaded from or to any computer on the planet (or for that matter, off it). The technology is, of course, subject to all manner of limitations such as distance from internet source, quality of cable connecting to the internet source, capability of computer, capability of user, lightning strikes (a recurring problem in Karamea at least) and many more. However, it still remains somewhat of a miracle that in a place such as Karamea, where the population is so small and the surrounding wilderness so vast, we are privileged to have access to this technology. In fact, a lot of Karameans have internet speeds faster than that of many city dwellers. This being due to the fact that the fibre optic cable runs the length of the relatively narrow populated area of the west coast and most dwellings are within a reasonable distance of a good clean and fast internet source.
To communicate using the internet all one needs to do is simply register with an e-mail provider and enter into the world of e-mail with a personal inbox and a host of other functions allowing communication with anybody else also registered with a provider. However, we (the Karamea Community) are lucky to have had built for us an interactive website, a virtual notice board on which we can place content. This website exists as data on a server (a digital memory bank), one of millions that exist in multiple locations around the world, and the content can be accessed by anybody with a computer connected to the world wide web.
To communicate effectively through an interactive website requires the expertise of people with the necessary skills and software to construct and design a marvellous tool capable of being effective and user friendly . Enter the rise of community websites. Community websites are catching on around the world, serving both physically geographic communities of people living closely together as well as virtual communities made up from members spanning the seven continents who share a common interest and are united through their computers. They serve to enhance communication based on the fact that for a significant amount of people, the internet is becoming the most easily and frequented way of accessing and sharing information.
Many websites already exist, mostly to serve visitors to the Karamea region and advertise the hospitality services available. The idea of a community website for Karamea would no doubt have been conceived by many different people at different times in recent years. One that was made by the people, for the people. A series of events recently led to the formation of a small group formed out of a vision seeded by the Karamea Community Business Ltd (KCBL). The KCBL, through community consultation, assessed the need for a way of archiving material that would be of benefit to Karamea ratepayers. The rate payers are made up of permanent residents, seasonal dwellers and people who live elsewhere but own property here. It would also be of benefit to those thinking about moving here as well as those with an affinity for the area as a favorite holiday destination or friends and family of those who live here.
The group consisted of Rick Lucas, the local community development co-ordinator who matched up Radek, a website builder with designer Deborah Wagner and joined by David Guppy, a director in the KCBL. Together, after a couple brainstorming sessions, Radek began constructing the backbone to the site, complemented by Deborah's design work, a test site was launched to be viewed by the community and to give a chance for people to give feedback and submit content before it went live to the world. This is the result……….a world of its own within the global world of cyberspace. Potentially now accessible by over a billion people on the planet.
How many will actually find their way onto this site is uncertain. Efforts have been made at a local level to inform the people of Karamea that they now have a site of their very own. One which they can log on, interact, insert and change content, add events on a digital calendar, find information on local services, advertise goods wanted or for sale and browse articles relating to their lives. Karamea is full of good folk and this website has been constructed to strengthen communications between each other. As it is hosted on the world wide web, it has the potential to reach out to others outside and inspire to the fact that in a fast and changing world the value of community is priceless.
The site has been a gift from those who have put in the effort, a commendable amount of volunteer time mainly from Radek and Deborah. It will be grown now by the community. Not with a hiss and a roar but over time as its usefulness encourages more and more to embrace it and fill its cyberspace with nutritious community content.
Thanks to all who make it happen……….