VOLUME 30, NUMBER 33 THURSDAY, May 20, 1999

RIN Web site offers information on Niagara Region

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The Western New York Regional Information Network (RIN), a 5,300-page Web site offering access to a wealth of information about the eight-county Niagara Region, has been established at the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth at UB.

The institute will showcase RIN http://rin.buffalo.edu this morning during a presentation in the Buffalo Convention Center.

John B. Sheffer, II, institute director, calls the Web site "a resource for the region's citizens and leaders, as well as a richly informative site for users outside the area, and an anchor-point for a broader approach to creating online access to Western New York.

"A number of different groups with different approaches are working to enhance the Niagara Region's Web presence," Sheffer said. "We believe-and it's a belief that's central to the way the RIN works-that all of us who are engaged in these efforts can collaborate and network so that Web visitors see a coherent, user-friendly, sensible region, rather than a fractured public face with several dozen unrelated access points."

The RIN is, in part, an electronic directory of public services and municipal jurisdictions in the eight-county Niagara Region, providing contact information even for agencies and jurisdictions that are not yet online.

The RIN also links to existing homepages for municipalities and public agencies, as well as some not-for-profit organizations, and offers training for municipal and school officials and public-sector service providers who want to create a Web presence for their organizations and agencies.

In addition, the RIN offers users connections to national and international sites that demonstrate some "best practices" in regional Web approaches to such issues as economic and community development.

"We just keep growing," said Olivia Arditi, the network's Web master. "With several hundred municipal jurisdictions and a broad range of public services in the eight counties we serve, there are always new dimensions for the RIN to cover.

"As more and more municipalities and organizations take an interest in going online, the RIN will continue to become a more complex and dynamic tool," Arditi said. "That's the exciting nature of the Web-it evolves constantly, which makes it an ideal informational resource as a region develops."

Beverly A. Sanford, associate director of the institute, noted that the essence of the RIN is collaboration.

"We depend on municipal offices and community agencies to let us know how they want to be represented on the Web," she said. "If they want to create their own Web sites, we help them do it, and then we help RIN users find them.

"Because of this fundamental collaboration, the RIN can provide access to a broader, deeper range of regional information than any one agency could ever maintain on its own."

The RIN evolved from a 1996 recommendation by the UB Governance Project. The project's report, "Governance in Erie County: A Foundation for Understanding and Action," noted that "much good information on governance exists within the region; however, much of it is dispersed or inaccessible."

As a result of this finding, the Governance Project team called for a regional information network "for the exchange of information between area residents, governments, businesses, foundations, not-for-profit institutions, schools and other potential users."

David C. Perry, founding director of the RIN and now director of the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says: "The goal of the RIN remains as simple as its task is complex-to make Western New Yorkers smarter about the region and its governments and to make the rest of the world smarter and better-informed about Western New York."

Today, says Arditi, more than 5,000 users access the RIN each month.

While many are local, others come from more than 40 countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany. Their comments range from inquiries about locating a business in Western New York to questions about where to find the best Buffalo wings.

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