By HDN Editorial Board
Techspo, the first technology exposition ever held in northern Montana, started relatively small for an event of its kind, but it has the potential to grow.
Held over the weekend at Montana State University-Northern and Havre High School, Techspo dealt with the importance of wiring Montana to the Internet and to modern technology in general.
The speakers told us that we have to do this. If we do it, it won't guarantee a prosperous, meaningful future. But if we don't, they said, we will be guaranteed not to have one.
Andrew Cohill, director of Blacksburg Electronic Village in Virginia, said Blacksburg, a town of 38,000 people, has not only become more successful in its business and civic activities since it became 90 percent wired to the Internet in 1998, but also its people have become more active in community affairs.
Wiring a community lets people find out what's happening in the world how communities are acting differently, how business is being done differently, how leaders are thinking differently. Communities in northern Montana need to find out what the future will be like, and plan how they will participate in that future, speakers at Techspo said.
It's not going to be simple. People have to change the way they think and act, and need to plan for what the future will bring, instead of reacting to changes when they happen. Society and technology change so fast that by the time you react, it's probably changed again.
The Hi-Line, the speakers said, needs to figure out what it wants to be in 20 years and take steps to get there. That will take work.
Where the community will be in 20 years is up to the community itself, Cohill said.
Techspo speakers talked about what other communities are doing. Towns in northern Scotland are connecting via the Internet with U.S. descendants of Scottish immigrants to build their interest, and possibly their spending, in their old homeland. Blacksburg maintains an online open dialogue about issues and posting of events and activities.
Speakers talked about Havre creating a combination retirement community and youth hostel with strong ties to the educational opportunities at Northern. Havre could develop interest worldwide in its rich cultural heritage.
The electronic infrastructure isn't just about being able to buy and sell things around the world. It isn't just about getting online and finding out what the city council agenda is.
The Internet allows contacts with people, communities and organizations around the world. It allows business people to find out what other businesses are doing. People from the Hi-Line can not only find out what people in Georgia or Minnesota or France or Australia are doing to solve their problems and to survive and succeed the Internet also allows dialogue with those people.
The success of this depends on the efforts of the community. It's not up to the government. The effort has to start on a grass-roots level. The people have to decide what it is they want, and how to get there.