In the first of a two part series, Green Hectares looks at technology issues as part of our Rural Tech program and what type of impacts they can have for rural communities with the insight of James Van Leeuwen, an ICT consultant and owner of Ventus Development Services.
James Van Leeuwen is passionate about helping rural communities to realize the vast potential of the Internet for economic and social development. He believes information and communication technology (ICT) can bring new prosperity to virtually any rural community. James is an ICT consultant and entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in ICT development and application, operating through his own consulting firm Ventus Development Services. He grew up in the Alberta foothills south of Calgary, and now lives in Pincher Creek with his wife and daughter. “My wife and I choose to live here so we can enjoy the quality of rural life. We also want to raise our daughter in a community where she has ready access to natural amenities and a strong sense of community,” he says.
James first got interested in the concept of “teleworking” (working from home) in the second half of the 1990s. “The Internet was just getting established, and people immediately began leveraging it to create wealth from wherever they were connecting. Instead of commuting to and from work, some people started working from home. Not only were these teleworkers generally more productive working from home, they were helping cut down traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions,” he says.
James was one of the founders of Sustainable Alberta, and was part of a team that created the Canadian Commuter Challenge. The event is designed to reduce the economic, social and environmental impacts of single occupant vehicle (SOV) commuting, by urging commuters to walk, cycle, carpool, or work from home. Both the event and the organization have carried on, although James hasn’t been involved for over a decade. “My key interest is how people can use information and communication technology to create wealth and health” he said. “The opportunities for rural and remote communities are the most exciting.”