Director, Missouri Research & Education Network
University Of Missouri – Columbia
200 Heinkel Building
Columbia, MO 65211 USA
v: (314) 882-2000
f: (314) 882-3433
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; More equitable access to technology or electronic information; Local commitment to network- based activities; Leverage of public funding; Volunteer contributions of time and energy
The Columbia On-line Information Network is a community computer service which provides open access to on-line information for Columbia and the surrounding Area. The project started as a collaborative project between the City of Columbia, the Columbia Public Schools, the Daniel Boone Regional Library, and the University of Missouri – Columbia Campus Computing. The project goals are to prepare the public sector and citizens for an information-age future by providing free and open access to the system, and to develop a prototype for implementation in other Missouri communities.
The system uses the Freeport software developed by Case- Western Reserve University and has been modified to include Gopher and WAIS data repositories. Through a development grant from the Higher Education program of the Eisenhower Science and Mathematics Act, work began on the system in September, 1992. The initial focus was the development of an on-line curriculum library for K-12 science education. The library currently contains over 200 lesson plans, all available for full- text searching. Examples of other types of information currently available include 1990 census data for all states, horticulture guides, constitutional documents, directory of social service agencies,etc.. Other features of the system include e-mail, bulletin boards, discussion lists, a full USENET feed, on-line chat, and full Internet access.
Although COIN will not be opened for public access until May, there are currently over 100 users on the system from Columbia Public Schools, and over 100 others from the other participants. The system averages over 100 logons a day even though it is still in development.
The COIN system has provided other communities as well as state government with a concrete example of what can be done with very low cost and public domain software and largely volunteer effort. Four communities around Columbia are interested in joining COIN as soon as possible, and two other communities in rural Missouri are using COIN as a model for the implementation of their own systems. Staff from MU and the Columbia Public Schools have been invited to demonstrate the system at many conferences and community meetings around the state and have been met with great enthusiasm.
The implementation of a community information system has the potential of creating a partnership with organizations that historically do not cooperate, at least with respect to technology. Combining the resources of universities, schools, public libraries, and local government has the potential to radically change the landscape. Already, the Columbia participants are working on other grants, and exploring how we can help each other with our computing, telecommunications,and most importantly, our information access needs. Much to our surprise, we discovered considerable overlap in licenses for on-line and CDROM- based reference materials. As a result, we are now negotiating with several vendors to mount the information on COIN, hopefully reducing the overall costs.
The global economy has created an urgent need to create the global classroom. Project COIN has provided a window for the classroom to be an active participate in the world-wide information revolution and promises to offer rural communities equal access to information. Without this access, we will create another case of |have|s and have- nots|, only this time it will be information have|s and have-nots. In an information-age society, those that do not have ready, free, and easy access to information will be left out.