Thursday, October 14, 2010

Youth Leadership for Sustainable Communities

On Wednesday night I attended a meeting about ACT Otherwise, a project for Youth Leadership for Sustainable Communities. This is the Canberra arm of a national project "Australian OTHERWISE Network". This grew out of research at RMIT “Sustainable Consumption: Young Australians as Agents of Change”. Unfortunately funding for the Canberra work is running out (the organisers would welcome corporate sponsorship).

At the meeting I felt a little old (the program is intended for young people). Also what stuck me was the high level of involvement from ANU students. ACT Otherwise is run from the Conservation Council ACT Region office in the City West ANU development.

While I am a little old for Otherwise, it might prove of interest to my Green ICT students. They could undertake Otherwise activities as their assessable assignments. It might also make sense top apply for new federal government funding for an ICT sepcific version of Otherwise.

Also what I noticed about both the national and ACT Otherwise projects was limited use of the Internet to promote and run the projects. The aim seems to be to promote face-to-face meetings. This is a last century approach to activism. The Internet can now be used to replace most meetings. ACT Otherwise could take advantage of the expertise in Canberra at ANU, University of Canberra and CIT in e-learning and provide online courses for facilitators in online activitism (like many progressive educators, I don't do face-to-face teaching at ANU any more) .

The national project uses a Wordpress based blog and does not have its own web domain name. Other parts of the project are scattered across other web sites.

The ACT Otherwise has its own web domain However, the web site design is a little dated, being the type of high graphics low information design which was popular around the run of the century and fell into disuse with the DOT.COM crash (and the failure of most companies using this web design).

As it is I expect that most people who came across the web site would not get past the first page. They would see a blank brown screen and not wait for anything more to appear, but would instead go elsewhere.

My suggestion would be to replace this with a design which is compatible with smart phones and meets accessibility
requirements for disabled users. It will then be reasonably usable for everyone else. As it is the accessibly problems with the web site may be sufficient for government agencies to not fund the project.

Some specific problems with the web site:
  1. HTML VALIDATION: The home page failed the W3C Markup Validator, with 10 errors.
  2. It scored only 33% on the W3C mobileOK Checker.
  3. TAW Accessibility Test: One level 1, 4 level 2 and one level3 problems on an automated accessibility test for disabled users.

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