Personal homepages help local people get online

A unique project in South Yorkshire is set to give local people access to the best information on the web, courtesy of their own personal web page providing hand picked links to high quality websites that are relevant to their own personal interests. The project will be launched at 6.30pm on 16th February in University House, University of Sheffield.

I.T. for Me is a local project with national significance. It aims to give people with no experience of computers the chance to get the best from the web and for local community groups to set up their own web pages.

I.T. for Me is a three-year, Objective One project involving a partnership between the University of Sheffield, Mediac (a Sheffield community multi-media development group), the South Yorkshire Library Authorities of Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham, and Knowledge Integration, a local software development company. The project will focus on five local communities: Goldthorpe in Barnsley; Conisbrough in Doncaster; Herringthorpe and Mowbray Gardens in Rotherham; and Firth Park in Sheffield.

Richard Proctor, of the Department of Information Studies at the University of Sheffield and one of the leaders of the project explains, "Although the internet can be of enormous benefit to people, many don't take advantage of it either because they have never used a computer before, or don't think that the internet has anything to offer them. When the technical platform has been developed, we will be asking people to complete a simple on-line questionnaire about their hobbies, interests and information needs. This will be matched against the very best electronic content websites, links, and documents, to give people personal web page thats full of information of interest to them. We will also be providing links to useful local information addresses, facilities and news. For example, if a user tells us that they use public transport we can automatically link them to the local bus and rail timetables.

"The beauty of this system is that all of the information offered will be relevant to the needs of the individual, avoiding frustrating searches using search engines. It will also be checked by librarians to ensure that all of the information is high quality: accurate, useful and a good starting point for exploring more widely.

"As well as providing personal web access, we are also enabling local community groups to develop their own websites through a sister project South Yorkshire Community Information. To date over fifty groups have created their own sites with our support.

"This project is groundbreaking and is being watched with interest all over the UK. The system could easily be replicated to provide personalised web access for every person in the UK."

Please contact Jeanette Newcombe on 0114 2221032 or email mediateam@sheffield.ac.uk.