June 11, 2004

In this day and age, technology is seemingly everywhere.  Many organizations have been able to utilize this technology to their own benefit and to the benefits of their customers.  In households, surfing the web is commonplace.  However, for the area of North Hastings, catching the high-tech wave has been a challenge.  That is, until "What’s In ‘IT’ For Me" stepped in.
North Hastings is a small, rural area with a top internet dial-up connection speed of only 26 kilobytes per second.  Information technology wasn’t even considered a possibility, let alone a priority.  In 2001, things began to change.  Recognizing a need to educate the residents about the benefits of information technology, as well as a need to train the community on using the hardware, the Community Futures Development Corporation of North & Central Hastings and South Algonquin presented "What’s In ‘IT’ For Me".
“The program was initially started to make the community aware of what is available to them through IT, so that included convincing the municipalities that they should even be online,” says Kevin Taylor, Project Manager.  “In our rural community, at the time when we first started the program, I did a workshop called ‘Who Needs the Web?’ and, out of 12 participants in a particular municipality, if more than one of them had e-mail, it would have been a surprise.”
Just two-and-a-half years later, with the assistance and guidance of "What’s In ‘IT’ For Me", municipalities not only have e-mail, but they are also using it frequently, as well as developing and maintaining their own websites.  “It’s really quite interesting how, in the past couple of years I’ve been involved, we’ve seen such a change in people,” says Taylor.
Deciding to participate in "What’s In ‘IT’ For Me" turned out to be very helpful to the Municipality of Hastings Highlands.  “People can view minutes of meetings, fill out a building permit application, check out what is going to be discussed on Council agendas, view by-laws we feel are important to the people, or simply read about the History of the area and view pictures,” says Eleanor Tully, Office Assistant with the Municipality of Hastings Highlands.  “We would recommend this service to all municipalities and businesses.”
Municipalities aren’t the only organizations who have reaped the benefits of "What’s In ‘IT’ For Me"., a portal designed by Community Futures, has a directory of over 900 businesses and organizations.  Another site,, is home to 145 artists and associated services, allowing local artists to promote their work and talents for free over the internet.  A third site,, is used by 280 not-for-profit organizations, and over 300 others have received the Rural Volunteer Network Training CD.  The key component of this site is a system that matches organizations with possible volunteers.  The site also allows participants associated with Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Programs to look for placements that best suit their skills and interests, as well as offering a Mentorship service.
Additionally, more than 250 children have participated in hands-on business, multimedia and cyber workshops, furthering "What’s In ‘IT’ For Me’s" goal of creating a greater awareness of the internet and of IT possibilities.  “We found that we had to cover all the bases.  We’ve included the older folks that are running our communities and the kids that are the future of our communities,” says Taylor.  “You walk through our schools and there isn’t a computer per kid; there’s about 20 computers and 700 kids.”  All the hard work that’s gone into making "What’s In ‘IT’ For Me" hasn’t gone unnoticed by the North Hastings residents.  “Because of this initiative, the people of North Hastings and South Algonquin can be connected with the rest of the world and be no different in this regard.  Their ongoing support is excellent,” says Tully.  It’s the continuous service and desire to educate and excite people about information technology, that has contributed to the program’s success.  With today’s world consistently facing constantly rapid changing technology, there’s no doubt that because of "What’s In ‘IT’ For Me", North Hastings will be better prepared.