Creating Local Online Hubs: Three Models for Action

A White Paper on Recommendation 15 of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy

Creating Local Online Hubs: Three Models for Action, a policy paper by Adam Thierer, explores three scenarios under which community leaders and other stakeholders can work together to create local online hubs where citizens can access information about their governments and local communities. Ensuring that every local community has at least one high-quality hub is one of 15 key recommendations made by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. 

“Just as communities depend on maps of physical space, they should create maps of information flow that enable members of the public to connect to the data and information they want,” said the Knight Commission. In his paper, Adam Thierer takes a considered look at the many excellent online hubs already in place in American communities and explores how they can serve as models for online hubs in other communities. He proposes three general models for online hubs:

  • Model 1: A Community Government Information Model, including such resources as government data feeds, civic information and events calendars;
  • Model 2: A Community Connections Model, including all the information in Model 1 plus local forums and community e-mail listservs; and
  • Model 3: A Community News and Commentary Model, including Models 1 and 2 plus local media and local blogs.

In addressing how to get these hubs built, Thierer cautions, “We should keep in mind the great diversity of local communities and realize that there is no one-size-fits-all, best approach to designing high-quality local online hubs. We should not assume that a hub model that works well in one community will automatically work for another.”

Adam Thierer is currently Senior Research Fellow in the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia. He previously served as President of the Progress & Freedom Foundation and is well-known for his extensive writing and public appearances on issues spanning technology, media, and Internet and free speech, online child safety and digital privacy policy.