Regular readers, the few that I have, will know that I have been encouraging rural folks to become involved in the Ontario Womens Institute Rural Voices initiative, unfortunately whilst they did get a great response at their recent public forum in Ridgetown the on line participation can only be described as disappointing. I suspect that this is in part due to the fact that it often takes months or even years for users to 'find' a new web page, blog or forum of interest to them given the enormous volume of 'stuff' on the internet. (There are just over 100 mentions in the last 3 months according to a Google search and 3 or 4 % of those are MY posts!) I will even go further and say that even the WIs own members seem to be avoiding getting involved, at least in the on line comments and survey questions. Very discouraging!
I am aware only too well of the challenges faced by many rural citizens to get connected to the internet and that only a small portion of those that are will seek such information or involvement, but given the rural population of Ontario is around 1.8 million you would think a few would find it and use it.
As I said above part of the problem may well be finding such sites of interest to rural folks and in that regard I have a proposal, some of you may be aware of a number of 'Aggregators ' on line which collect posts from blogs, news sites, or other on line sources and post a short clip of each new article along with a link to the full post as and when they appear. Such sites are usually directed to a specific subject like the CanadianGreens or ProgressiveBloggers for example.
My proposal is to create a Rural Aggregator that would collect feeds from rural bloggers, rural support and advocacy groups and similar on line posting related to rural things not only across Ontario but across Canada. Unfortunately Feedcluster is not accepting new accounts at this time but I imagine there are other such sites out there, if not independent software certainly is. The problem of getting the rural folks to be aware of such a one stop resource is still there but given time this could become a major resource to bring together the 6 million Canadians that live outside of urban areas. Perhaps such a site already exists but if so I have not found it!
We also wonder if the RVN should consider such a thing for their project. What do you think, calling all rural bloggers and organizations if you think this is a good idea let me know either by commenting here or by email (link in side bar) and if I get six or more bloggers or other who want to participate I will 'give it a go' and try creating such a site. Perhaps it could even be called 'Rural Voices' and promote the WIs other efforts in the main header?
As I say on my other Blog 'Democracy requires Dialog' but so does the sustainability of rural Canada – TALK TO US rural Canada!
UPDATE: I have been made aware of two sites that provide links to various web sites concerned with rural matters. They are not exactly what I have in mind but may be of interest to some of you, particularly researchers.http://www.netvibes.com/ruralontarioreader#News_%26_Views