Prescription for online success

To encourage Virginia municipalities to have a greater Web presence, Gov. Jim Gilmore has outlined principles to guide those communities in setting up community portals and e-commerce applications.

The principles were presented March 14 during Gilmore's e-Communities Task Force meeting at the University of Virginia. The 26-member task force, formed in August 2000, plans to release a leadership guidebook this year.

"The point of the guidelines is less to provide a how-to instruction book than try to address the first thing, which is [that] this is not going to be successful without leadership in the local level," said Andrew Cohill, co-chairman of the task force and director of the Blacksburg Electronic Village.

The principles say an electronic community should:

    * Provide government, education, and business services and information.

    * Reflect its identity, culture and values.

    * Encourage economic development.

    * Be accessible to all people.

    * Work with other communities.

Cohill said the task force's guidebook, which he hoped would be revised yearly, would be "descriptive rather than prescriptive." It would provide general information about what a community needs to have an effective and participatory online presence with contributions from government, education and business leaders.

He said money is not a barrier for communities to get on the Web. "I've worked with more than 100 communities, and I've never seen money as a first or second consideration," he said, adding that leadership and vision is what's needed.

The task force has spurred Blacksburg and three other localities — Reston, Charlottesville and West Point — to form a community network association as a mutual self-help network and to share best practices and ideas, he said.

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