Internet bus Netti-Nysse

The heaviest and most yellow mobile service in the world?
It began as an old articulated bus belonging to the city public transport. The local vocational school and the city’s information technology unit converted the bus into Tampere City Library’s internet bus, Netti-Nysse.

Netti-Nysse’s purpose in life is to encourage and guide people in learning about computers and the internet. It is a place where people can discover the use and fun of information technology in their everyday lives. Netti-Nysse also provides new models and solutions for instruction in the basic skills of information technology. It serves as a dooropener to the information society and aims to convey feedback to the builders of the information society concerning problems of the systems and user interfaces.

Netti-Nysse is a name specific to the Tampere dialect and perhaps a bit oddsounding for an internet bus. The laidback name and colourful appearance are a deliberate attempt to dispel the mystery of the information society and to lower the threshold to its realm. Image is significant. Most important, however, is that the same policy be continued in the service and that patrons have positive learning experiences and believe in themselves as computer users.

The less you know about the subject, the more right you are to come here
Netti-Nysse serves all Tampere residents who are not familiar with computers or the internet. There are people in all age groups and social classes who are new to the internet. Of course older age groups form a larger proportion of these people, because they did not learn about computers in school or at work. There are even many fields in the working world where computers are only now coming into use or where terminal work is being transferred to the internet. Orders made for kitchens and work shift lists for bus drivers are being transferred to the internet, supplementary training requires internet skills or jobs and proceedings are sent by email. Curiosity, however, is the greatest motivating factor. “I wanted to come and see what it means when I notice everywhere: for more information: www…”.

You can receive instruction at Netti- Nysse when you come with a group of 7-10 people who are eager to learn and sign up for a course at the Netti-Nysse office. The group can be from an organisation, neighbours, acquaintances, anyone. Coming with your own group creates a sense of security and the group leaders handle the task of communication. There are many kinds of groups: a florist with friends, winter swimmers, Sotaorvot ry (war orphans), Seniorikauppiaat (senior shopkeepers), Huonokuuloiset ry (the hearing-impaired), housewives and female immigrants. Organisations and associations have been active users of Netti-Nysse. Netti-Nysse also arranges for open groups, in which individuals can enrol. Basic instruction is free for Tampere organisations and private persons residing in Tampere. With groups, we meet four times and do eight hours of work together. Netti- Nysse is on the road in two shifts from morning till evening. On an ordinary day, we meet with four groups. Netti- Nysse can provide instruction wherever an 18-meter accordion bus will fit. The best internet connections, however, are accessible at W-LAN antenna stops. There are about 10 stops like these around Tampere. If there is an antenna spot in the area, Netti-Nysse will pick up the group and drive closer. If there is no stop nearby, the connection can be made using a mobile phone or a portable W-LAN antenna. This is certainly a mobile service, isn’t it?

Netti-Nysse has been in service for three years and its reservation book still fills up quickly. Our patrons have done a splendid job in marketing our service. This may also be a sign of good quality work. Patron feedback has been excellent. The free, doorstep service and, above all, the professional skill of the instructors are appreciated. There are five employees working on Netti- Nysse who are customer service professionals. They possess the skill to explain matters in a user-friendly way and in plain language. The good sense of humour and patience of the instructors and their ability to create a relaxed atmosphere are vitally important in the face of the new and perhaps intimidating topic. There are always two instructors in charge of a group of ten people as personal guidance is fundamentally important. Each person is able to advance at his or her own pace and to receive help specifically for his or her own problem. For example, there are very different ways of learning to use the computer mouse. The mouse is a new tool and the key to the internet world. In order to facilitate the process of ‘taming the mouse’, the teaching programme ‘Catch the mouse’ was developed for adults. The programme can be downloaded freely from Netti-Nysse’s website in both Finnish and Swedish. The setting of the teaching programme is the familiar environment of the summer cottage, where you can drink coffee, kill flies and clean up the yard using the mouse.

When the mouse is under control, or at least more tame, you can go to the internet. The internet is like a treasure chest for learners. Everyone will find something of interest to him or her. Our patrons find wonder and surprise at their fingertips, as the vastness and possibilities become apparent.Websites devoted to their own city, library internet services, the database of the casualties from Finland’s wars, horoscopes, road cameras, lace-making instructions, timetables, and bank network services all kindle a spark for using the internet. If nothing else kindles interest in learners, opening a free email account certainly does. Catching up with friends and relatives from far and near via email inspires the continued use of the internet. Instructors do not try to scare participants about the dangers of the internet, but a critical attitude and caution is emphasised. The most important thing, however, is not to get people ‘hooked’ on the internet, but to identify its possibilities.

Netti-Nysse is not taking clients from adult educators, on the contrary. After the course, participants are encouraged to continue with other information technology courses. Thanks to a good network of instructors, information about courses can easily be obtained from the instructors’ communal newspaper. Tampere city has over 140 internet terminals where we distribute information about our courses and these terminals are available for free use by the municipal residents. The library’s data centres are excellent places to continue practising, because there is always someone at hand to help.

Basic instruction is provided to about 1,000 persons yearly. 2/3 of the participants during our time of operation have been women. In our first years of operation, 2/3 of the participants were senior citizens. Last year, and especially this year, over half of our participants have been of working age. Only 2% of participants have said they will not use computers after the course. About 20% remain undecided and their biggest problem is how to get continued financing. In addition to providing basic instruction, Netti-Nysse also participates in different events and serves as an internet access centre. Even when taking part in different events, we try to lower the threshold of the information society, to learn about EU information retrieval or wonder at the art of media. Netti-Nysse has been used for video conferences between the mayors of Kaunas and Tampere, for sale of contracts with energy companies and for electronic searches of places to study. Many visiting groups familiarise themselves with the bus as well. Altogether, 7,000-12,000 people visit the bus every year. Netti-Nysse and the City of Tampere received the 2001 European Commission eGovernment Best Practice Award and the Ministry of Education Adult Education Quality Award.

The technology behind Netti-Nysse – what is inside?
The front section of Netti-Nysse has 10 modern patron computers with internet connections and a server. The back of the bus has a 10-person ‘auditorium’ with data projectors, audio-visual equipment and a screen.

Electricity is battery-generated from the bus’ own generator or by connecting to the main supply current. Internet connections are made via W-LAN antennas or mobile phones and these connections are very reliable and fast. According to some young boys, the real experts, Netti-Nysse has “totally awesome” connections.

All in all, the technology has been working magnificently. The bus has operated in 26-degrees heat, as well as in freezing temperatures, excellent for a vehicle designed for completely different purposes. All honour and thanks for the technological solutions go to those who built Netti-Nysse – the people at the vocational school and the information technology centre.

Netti-Nysse is registered as a small- scale bus and as such is able to take 12 passengers. The internet instructors also drive the bus.

Cooperation and the future
Netti-Nysse is owned and financed by Tampere city. Netti-Nysse also has business partners, whose share of the full operational budget is just under 10%; Nokia and TeliaSonera, among others, support and develop the mobile connections. Maintaining an open line of communication with the companies in the field is important.

Netti-Nysse has been actively involved in a major information society project, ‘eTampere’, which has a broad cooperation network with universities, schools, research institutions, businesses, associations and the city. Netti-Nysse’s most important daily partners, however, are the associations and organisations. Netti-Nysse also participates in developing basic instructional material, for example, the ‘Catch the mouse’ programme, and the revised edition of the booklet Tietokone iloksi ja avuksi (The computer for fun and practical use), completed in spring 2004. The development of instructional material has been made possible with the support of the Finnish Library Association and the Ministry of Education.

Currently, it seems that as a vehicle, Netti-Nysse is coming to the end of its road. Continuation of the service, however, is necessary and plans for a new vehicle have begun. There is a demand for basic instruction and the new vehicle can also be used for many other purposes. Cooperation with media education instructors is being launched which would enable the bus to provide more expensive and uncommon programmes for those who need them. The bus could support distance-learning students or arrange events for parents who worry about how much their children are playing on the computer. It could also serve as a voting location for sparsely populated areas. The most important ‘purpose in life’ for the new Netti-Nysse, however, will be to help people enter the gates to the internet’s sources of information.

Tampere’s neighbouring municipalities are also interested in collaboration, because small municipalities by themselves do not have the possibility to offer services like those provided by Netti- Nysse. The production of the ‘net bus’ is being clarified and it is possible that new net buses may be purchased from Tampere in the near future for others to use as well.

One Netti-Nysse cannot open up the information society
Tampere City adds to motivation by working to develop new internet services and keeping its own webpages maintained.Motivation seems also to be flowing from an old tradition of free popular education work. New technology awakens curiosity in Finns.

Tampere City Library’s new form of service, the data centre, would be worthy of its own article. The following is a short description of it.

The first data centre opened in connection with Sampola’s local library in autumn 2003 and the second one opened at Hervanta in spring 2004. The data centres have their own permanent professional staff who provide assistance when needed and also arrange their own basic courses. There are 20 computers available to visitors. It is possible to reserve computer time for up to three hours. Groups can also reserve the premises for instruction in computer usage from their own instructor or from a data centre employee. For example, daycares and school groups use data centres frequently before the library opens.

Data centres have attracted clients quickly and the computers are actively used. The clientele consists mostly of adults, but the data centre seems, for example, to be an important place for immigrant youth. Sampola’s data centre received 36,000 visitors during the first autumn it was open. The data centres and Netti-Nysse work in cooperation with one another and provide good support for one another’s operations.

Netti-Nysse and the City of Tampere received the 2001 European Commission eGovernment Best Practice Award and the Ministry of Education Adult Education Quality Award.

Translated by Turun Täyskäännös OY

Coordinator of Netti-Nysse Tampere City Library.