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May 2002 - Nr. 5


The Editor
Vorsicht Satire!
Antje berichtet
Hier O.K. Berlin!
K-W and Beyond
German Theatre
COC Opera Duo
Die Alte Dame
German Studies
Gone Fishing
40 Years Lein's
Wines of Austria
Sportclub 64 Toronto
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Ganghofer Treffpunkt
40 Years Beatles
Deutsche Regisseure...
Lost Film Era
Historical Centre
Der Nürburgring
Deutsche Autos in USA
To Do Business
Stained Glass Windows
Berlin History Museum
Online Village
World Cup 2006
Economic Upswing
"Hesse Year"
German Beer Day

Revisiting Germany’s First
All-Online Village

  TWIG - Oberhambach, a tiny hamlet in North Rhine-Westphalia, threatens to disappear from the map if its population of mostly elderly residents is not soon replenished. The once-agrarian community of some 275 residents is now far too small to support even the traditional staples of most German towns - pharmacy, bakery, post office, library, bank - making it unattractive to younger families and individuals.

In 2000, a consortium of district officials and German technology and communication companies initiated a pilot project designed to revive Oberhambach by turning it into a village of virtual pioneers.

The objectives: to get Oberhambachers online, increase the number of goods and services available to them via computer, pique their interest in new technologies and make these technologies part of their everyday lives. At the time, virtual valets in the U.S. seemed to be blazing the trail for integrated e-commerce everywhere and Oberhambach became the unlikely leader of the German movement.

Now, one year later, the trial phase of the project is complete and project coordinators are taking stock. Today, nearly every household in Oberhambach has Internet access, thanks largely to donated computers and reduced-rates for high-speed Internet connections, provided by Compaq and Deutsche Telekom, respectively. During the start-up phase of the project, 30 young "PC scouts" tutored older residents of the village to help pensioners overcome computer phobias. If the success of the project can be measured by the cash commitment participants have made to it, there is no doubt this was a hit: 99% of Oberhambach residents have purchased the computers, printers and modems that were lent to them for the first year of the project. From students to septuagenarians, Oberhambachers now surf and e-mail more intensively than people anywhere else in the Federal Republic.

Yet for shopping, errands and personal business, Oberhambachers still prefer the car to the computer, even though they now have the means to make purchases from a neighbouring town at the click of a mouse. Residents say they have given e-commerce a fair try, but most conclude that goods ordered online tend to be more expensive and arrive less punctually than those purchased in person. "I’ve tried to order fresh rolls, but they did not arrive at 7:00 in the morning as ordered, but at 1:30 in the afternoon," complains Anke Bernett, who runs the Glockenturm restaurant in town.

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