Electronic Village Shop
For many years village shops have been closing as car ownership and large supermarkets have eroded their trade. They become the place for emergency pint of milk, but nothing else. The closure of the local shop often cuts out the heart of a community, and moreover is a disatser for the elderly and poorer members of rural communities who do not have easy means of transport.
But does technology have to always favour the large operator, could we imagine technologies that help the small, the local, the individual to survive and thrive?
When this vision was first conceived in the early 1990s, there was no web, but even with the available technology then it was possible to think of combinations of dial up connection and bar code readers that would enable 'just in time' ordering from regional picking centres, so that you could go into your local shop in the morning with a recipe and have the ingredients ready for you when you return in the evening.
Today the technology and infrastructure are easier and maybe the particulars of the problems have changed (those that have survived had adapted) - but the broad question remains, does technology always favour the large and powerful, or can we create technologies that celebrate and empower the small and local.
This vision was first articulated by Alan Dix over 20 years ago, but, whilst he talked about it in keynotes and invited talks over the years ... he never did anything concrete (N.B. Alan says this!). Some visions, especially technological ones, may well just happen of their own accord, others, especially more social ones, need us to act as they will not arise out of the normal commercial world. Vision brings responsibility.
See also Alan's blog entry on "the electronic village shop – enhancing local community through global network"