Webster.uk.net is a community portal initiative which has been developed by Torfaen Council as an innovative e-Government project that uses technology and outreach workers to build strong relationships between local people, small businesses, strategic partnerships, the voluntary sector and other service providers. Designed and built by the community, it is packed full of information and services relating to Torfaen.
Officially launched on 24th March 2004, the initial phase of the project was funded by European Objective One money and led by Torfaen Council. This funding phase ended on 30th September 2005, and the success of the portal has meant that the Council has committed to the long-term provision of the service by bringing all necessary resources in-house.
Webster’s official launch was attended by the Rt. Hon. Rhodri Morgan, First Minister for Wales who said: "Projects such as Webster fit in with the Welsh Assembly’s philosophy for Wales, which is that communities and businesses alike should be encouraged to ‘jump into IT’. Webster is a top class Objective One project."
Sustaining and developing healthy and engaged communities is an over-riding objective of the Council whose vision is "To improve the quality of life in Torfaen significantly and continuously".
Webster.uk.net contributes to realising that vision in a number of ways that touch on economic and social regeneration, as well as helping to combat social exclusion. The project:
- Equips individuals with IT skills that improve their prospects, employability and access to information, support and services
- Improves economic sustainability and regeneration by supporting local businesses and encouraging them to take advantage of technology
- Promotes social inclusion through the help it provides to community groups and the improved access to services it provides for individuals
- Promotes community engagement and consultation through online polls, questionnaires, forms and emails, helping the community to shape the development of services and policies
The project initially targeted two of Torfaen’s most deprived communities before being extended to the wider borough. Via the portal’s content management software, local people are able to create and ‘author’ their own web pages, allowing direct involvement with its development, making the portal one that really is created for the community by the community.
The provision of 150 free PCs and broadband connections to a mix of community groups, local businesses and public sector organisations, as well as the installation of 29 touch screen kiosks throughout the borough, has also helped to tackle local issues surrounding social inclusion.
In addition to being able to ‘surf’ the information on Webster, users are able to pay their council tax, business rates etc, complete housing repair requests, report a minor crime and browse the library catalogue and reserve a book… all online through the kiosks, thus improving their access to the local services the Council offers.
Online public service and information examples on webster.uk.net include:
http://www.webster.uk.net/citizensadvice (Citizens Advice)
http://www.webster.uk.net/frameworkpartnership (Torfaen Children's & Young People Partnership)
http://www.webster.uk.net/torfaencustomercare (Torfaen Customer Care)
http://www.webster.uk.net/commercial-licensing (Commercial Licensing)