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01/31/2003 - Terabyte Triangle Welcomes TINCAN

The Inland Northwest Community Access Network (TINCAN) is the first technology tenant in the Music City Building at 1011 W 1st Ave. TINCAN is a non-profit organization that started in 1994 to provide education and support for social, economic, and community development. TINCAN provides computer and network access, content, and training to low-income people, rural, and local communities. Originally based at EWU, TINCAN became independent in 1999 and serves Spokane, Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille Counties. Some funding comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

All of TINCAN’s programs employ computer technology and the Internet, and they have created some exciting programs. “We are always looking for opportunities to create worthwhile local content and get people to use the Internet,” says Karen Michaelson, Director. TINCAN’s projects intertwine, build on, and enhance each other. The Inland Northwest Virtual Incubator (INVI) supports the Young Entrepreneurs Center. Rural Schools and Entrepreneurship teaches concepts of e-commerce to secondary school business students -- who can then take part in the INVI. The e--business course teaches high school students how computers and the Internet can make business more efficient and effective, how to use newsletters as a tool, and how to use the Internet for customer service. Some of TINCAN’s programs are free; some have a small fee.

In addition to e-commerce tools for rural and local schools, TINCAN is developing projects that will aid teachers. The Memories Project is an example. TINCAN is developing an on-line archive of local and regional historical materials that contains neighborhood, ethnic, and other community historical resources. The hope is to interest students in local history, enhance their studies, and perhaps rouse them to search out local history on their own. This database is available to the public for basic research.

To facilitate their educational endeavors, TINCAN has a mobile computer lab, which consists of laptops and uses wireless connections to network. This lab can go anywhere that has at least a single phone line for access. They have also partnered with the community centers and teach in the community center’s computer labs, covering basic use of the Internet, e-business for small business, and Web site management. “To teach Web basics, we find a subject of special interest to the student and show them that there is a lot about that topic on the Internet,” says Michaelson. “By the time, they’ve discovered what is available to them about that topic, they’ve learned how to search on the Internet.”

TINCAN’s Virtual Incubator serves as an online home for small businesses and micro-enterprises in the four counties TINCAN serves. Membership in the incubator is open to existing businesses or start-ups, but the member should expect to ‘graduate’ in two years or less. There is a charge for membership, and in return, there are many benefits.

The benefits include the hosting of the members Web site and listing in the INVI’s searchable Online Marketplace. For small businesses without Web site design expertise, INVI will provide Web site design assistance through the use of an online site builder with page templates. They will train the small business person in managing the Web site. Membership includes up to five e-mail accounts. Further, TINCAN will provide consultation in planning and executing the members business’s online strategy. Then there is technical support and much more. Becoming a member is easy and can be accomplished through the TINCAN Web site, http://www.invi.tincan.org/member/index.php.

Because of their outreach and training needs, TINCAN needed a central location with broadband capability. They found that in the old Music City Building. Thanks to TINCAN’s roof-mounted wireless transmitter/receiver, the Music City Building has wireless, broadband capability, which TINCAN will provide to other tenants at a reasonable rate.

To learn more about TINCAN, go to: http://www.tincan.org/.

Billie Moreland
 
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