The Alberta SuperNet: What does it Mean to Rural Business Communities?

By Amanda Williams, Cooper H Langford and Stelvia Matos.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A successful exploration of the necessary conditions for e-government and constructing a “knowledge society” has begun at a theoretical and technical level, yet little empirical knowledge of how this phenomenon is actually being realized and thought about within specific Canadian communities presently exists. The Alberta SuperNet is a $295 million, high-speed broadband network designed to bring affordable high-capacity services to 429 communities across the province. A central purpose of the SuperNet is to create a modernized network for public service delivery. The SuperNet is a “precedent setting” case due to the scale of the project (in terms of the scope of its geographic coverage and number of connections being provided) and the dynamics of its business case (as a private/public partnership). Such characteristics make it an excellent case study for illuminating some of the wider practical and policy issues associated with government-funded technology infrastructure projects. In order to highlight some of key issues facing rural citizens in this context, we conducted a series of interviews with telecommunication experts and, based on their feedback, produced five scenarios for potential commercial applications of broadband in Albertan communities using the SuperNet. Deploying a focus group methodology we then presented these scenarios and solicited feedback on them in six localities across the province. This paper presents the initial findings of these focus groups, thus offering some core insights into the challenges and opportunities articulated by members of small Alberta business centres with respect to the SuperNet. How research results of this sort can help enrich current debates about e-government and the building of a “knowledge society” is considered, reiterating the value of a constructive approach to technology assessment.

Keywords: SuperNet, Alberta, Small Business Centres, Rural Citizens, e-government, Knowledge Society, Constructive Technology Assessment

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 2, Issue 7, pp.25-34. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.118MB).

Amanda Williams

Amanda Williams has worked as policy analyst for the Government of Canada and as a visiting youth researcher for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in Thailand and Malaysia. At present, she is completing her PhD at the University of Calgary in the Faculty of Communication and Culture. She is also a member of the Alberta SuperNet Research Alliance team. Her research interests include: telecommunications policy, metaphor, public service innovation and qualitative research methods. She received both an undergraduate degree in Communication, Culture and Information Technology (1997) and a Masters of Arts (2000) in Sociology from Queen’s University.

Prof. Cooper H Langford

Dr. Cooper Langford is the former Vice-President Research at the University of Calgary. At present he is the Coordinator of the Science, Technology and Society Program and supervises both communication and chemistry students. He holds an AB in Chemistry from Harvard and a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Northwestern. He has chaired the Chemistry Department at Concordia and served there as Associate Vice-Rector for Research. He has also served on a number of NSERC committees and spent two years on secondment as Director of Physical and Mathematical Sciences at NSERC. In addition, he is a co-author of four books and over 200 research publications chapters and articles.

Dr. Stelvia Matos

University of Calgary, Canada

Dr. Stelvia Matos holds a B. Eng. Chemical Engineering, M. Eng. and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering (University of São Paulo- Brazil). She is a Research Associate in the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy (ISEEE). She also holds a Research Fellowship of the International Institute for Resource Industries and Sustainability Studies(IRIS) at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary. Her research areas include engineering policy, sustainable development innovation, information & communication technologies in rural areas, environment management tools, life cycle assessment, and social aspects of innovation dynamics. She has published articles in the Harvard Business Review (L.A. Edition), the Journal of Operations Management, Research Policy, and the Journal of Business Ethics.

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