Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP) in the U.S. Department of Commerce it is served by a nationally recognized computer-based community network (CN) called Prairienet (http://www.prairienet.org). Prairienet develops and consolidates community information in digital formats, provides free or low-cost access to Internet services such as electronic mail and web browsing, and offers significant user outreach, training and support. Unfortunately, this technology bonanza can also further isolate precisely those people and organizations who are at the heart of local development efforts: those without the resources, expertise, motivation and experience to access and make effective use of local information infrastructure ( Benton Foundation, 1998; McConnaughey and Lader, 1998; Novak and Hoffman, 1998; Schn, Sanyal, and Mitchell, 1999). The pervasiveness of electronic communication media in communities makes it increasingly difficult for individuals and organizations who lack access to networked information services to discern their community's knowledge networks. Specifically, it is increasingly difficult for individuals and organizations to accurately determine: "Who knows who?" and "Who knows who knows who?""Who has what?" and "Who knows who has what?""Who is addressing which community problems?" and "Who knows who is addressing which problems?" This difficulty presents a serious barrier to coordination and collaboration "in community development efforts across local organizations.
CNs have been heralded as promising partners in local efforts aimed at both community development and bridging the digital divide that splits use of computer resources along socioeconomic lines ( Chapman and Rhodes, 1997; Lillie, 1998; Virnoche, 1998). Information on Prairienet is organized (as it is in most CNs) following a city metaphor with information and organizations grouped into general categories, such as Health or Recreation. While a great deal of valuable local information is provided on Prairienet, the online information areas created by individuals and organizations do not typically include the kind of information that would provide answers to the questions about local problems and resources posed above. This arrangement does not optimally support local problem-solving and resource-sharing across organizations.
As part of the Community Networking Initiative (http://www.prairienet.org/cni), we are piloting an approach that uses networked information services to enhance community-wide collaboration. Our approach is derived from the concept of asset mapping, which is based on the assumption that community problems can be addressed from the inside out, if people know who has what resources (including skills, time, supplies, facilities, and financial