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    Posted December 27, 2008 by
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    Stories from Second Life

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    Digital Ontario Island Opens in Second Life



    On Tuesday, Dec 16, Digital Ontario Island was formally opened to the public. This is the second island belonging to the Ontario government, and according to the press release "is part of the Ontario Ministry of Government Services' research investigating the challenges and opportunities of broadband as a driver of social and economic change". This island, as well as the Ontario Public Service Island, was developed by the Ontario Ministry of Government Services in collaboration with Moderne Communications.



    Ilbiancone Express (rl Leigh Rowan, COO of Moderne Communications, www.modernecommunications.com ) welcomed everyone to Digital Ontario Island.  BBChamp Cyberstar (rl Barb Swartzentruber, Manager, Strategic Projects Unit, Ministry of Government Services) also spoke, and the island was officially opened when glency Akina (rl Glen Padaserry, assistant Director, Youth and New Professional Secretariat, Ministry of Government Services) cut the ribbon. Avatars were then invited in to the conference area to hear presentations by speakers on the topic of "The Importance of Collaboration and Partnerships in a Digital Economy".



    The first presentation was given by Cathy Frimon (rl Cathy Kennedy, project analyst, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs). She talked about the Rural Connections Broadband Program (Rural Connections), which aims to bring affordable and accessible broadband to rural areas of southern Ontario.



    Next was a presentation by Ralph Nandahar (rl Darrin Potter, Keewaytinook internet High School) whose talk was titled ``Online Education Programming Choice for First Nations Students``. Mr. Nandahar has spent the past eight years working on this program in which technology is coupled with community based instruction and mentorship from qualified teachers, allowing northern youth to stay in their communities and complete their secondary education at home rather than moving down south. The students take their courses by internet, are in school every school day and spend the day with a trained teacher. The program started in the 1999-2000 school year, with the first graduations from KiHS in 2006. Broadband is required to provide the quality of service needed to run the program efficiently and effectively.



    This was followed by a talk given by Lou Inkpen (rl Louise Slobodian, a communications specialist from Knowledge Ontario). Knowledge Ontario's mandate is to provides digital services to all Ontarians. They have different programs, such as Ask Ontario (providing homework and research chat help), Connect Ontario, Resource Ontario (making rich databases available 24 7), Learn Ontario (which shows how to use digital services), and Our Ontario (culture and heritage information and sharing). Ms. Inkpen ended her presentation by saying that Knowledge Ontario "Works for all Ontarians but particularly bridges the gap felt by rural, remote, northern, francophone and Aboriginal communities" and that in the future people will "Learn. Connect. Discover. Digitally!".



    The last speaker was Jaz Xenno (rl Matt Wenger, President of OpenGlobal and Director of Intelligent Communities at Waterfront Toronto).  He presented ``Intelligent Communities: Community Sustainability as Driver for Ultra-Broadband in Ontario``.  He gave a detailed case study of a community in Sweden, Våsterås, which is about 2 hours west of Stockholm, and had been losing citizens to the bigger city, where they went for work opportunities. In 2001 the town started the FTTH project (fiber to every home, business and institution), in the hopes of reversing the population loss trend. The project itself was paid for by homeowners and businesses, and was built by an energy company. Mr. Xenno stressed that the project was not about technology, but about community. MälarNetCity was created, in which the homes, businesses and institutions were inter-connected, so that, for instance,  it was possible for parents to contact their children's schools from home, or individuals could contact a nurse at the hospital, when medical information was needed, or individuals could switch video services, also from home. And in recent years the community has stopped losing its citizens to bigger cities.



    After Mr. Xenno's presentation, Ilbiancone Express summed up how virtual worlds in the future can be used to aid in successful collaborative efforts between individuals, businesses, government and communities involving broadband. He said that this could be done through four streams: by engaging citizens on a variety of issues, improving services and accessibility, creating new and diverse jobs and helping to grow economies.  The four presentations described above illustrated these different facets and how important broadband technology is in reaching these goals.



    There was then time for visitors to explore the rest of Digital Ontario Island before attending a concert by well-know sl performer Mankind Tracer. As well as the conference center, there are six pavilions around the island, each one focusing on different ways communities, government and business are using broadband. These include: Affordable and Accessible Broadband, Next Generation Infrastructure, Innovation in a Digital Economy, Digital Citizens and Business, Digital Government and Community and Digital Inclusion. There is much to be seen in each pavilion, with information on different projects sponsored by the Ontario government. Visitors are also invited to fill out surveys related to the theme of each pavilion, thereby actively participating in the research being done by the Ontario government on the use of broadband.



    In summation, I would like to quote Evis Blackflag of Moderne Communications.  He said "In my opinion, this (Digital Ontario Island) translates into a new delivery medium and a method for Ontario to make emotional & personal connections with a niche audience who's keenly adept at providing insight into Digital Citizenry". The creation of such a sim as this provides a meeting place and a place for discussion and exchange for individuals and groups  interested in  improving quality of life through technology, but also as Mr. Xenno so passionately expressed in his talk, through community building. It is an interesting and extremely exciting way for a government to make use of new technologies and be forward thinking, especially in these challenging economic times.



    1. glency Akina cutting the ribbon to officially open Digital Ontario Island



    2. Entrance to Conference Centre



    3. Conference Centre and surrounding pavilions



    Digital Ontario Island (202, 220, 39)











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