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Cadat is blogging for the neighbourhood again

21 March 2006 – Now that his period as a district council member has ended, internet pioneer Mellouki Cadat is going to write for two neighbourhood websites in Zeeburg. “Internet is also a medium for social encounters, to stimulate social cohesion and contacts within a neighbourhood”.

Cadat started his political weblog in 2001, when he was a candidate for the Zeeburg district council. It was no coincidence that he was the one to take this initiative. “I had a lot of experience with the internet; I was one of the first members of De Digitale Stad [an early internet community in Amsterdam – Ed]”.

That the initiative took root in Zeeburg was also no coincidence. “This was one of the areas with the highest share of internet users, also in the relatively poor Indische Buurt. The local government made an effort to stimulate the use of the internet”.

“The idea was that you can boost a disadvantaged neighbourhood’s economic development, by attracting small businesses and the creative class with good internet connections. Perhaps it was no coincidence that UPC also chose this as the first area to offer internet access through the cable”.

Being a new council member, Cadat wanted to use the internet to stay in touch with the neighbourhood. “I immediately equipped my blog with all that was available at that time in the field of interactivity. Responding to posts, chatting, people could even see what I was doing by use of a webcam”.

In 2003, the Institute for Public and Politics awarded Cadat the title of Digital Council Member of the Year. “First of all because of my writing style. Being an immigrant, it is hard for me to write correct Dutch. Therefore, I keep my postings short and to the point. The jury appreciated this style”.

“A second consideration was that my website had the widest range of interactive tools”. As a result of the publicity, the number of unique site visitors rose from some tens per day to hundreds per day.

Now that his membership of the district council has ended, Cadat is going to write for the neighbourhood websites Indische and “I had been involved with Indische before, in fact I was something of a Founding Father. However, I thought that it would be improper for me to write for these sites as a neighbourhood resident, while I was also a member of the district council”. was founded by former editors of Indische, after a disagreement about the publication of the Danish Mohammed cartoons. Cadat has chosen deliberately to write for both websites.

“In my opinion, ICT is not just ICT. It is also a medium for social encounters, to stimulate social cohesion and contacts within a neighbourhood. It is important not to confine yourself to your own group”, says Cadat.

“This also involves linking to each other, inviting visitors of your website to look at other websites as well. I predict that in a few years, it will be possible to measure a neighbourhood’s social cohesion by the links on websites”.

According to Cadat, the active visitors of neighbourhood websites still constitute a rather select group. Most are highly educated, young, white people. “But I am also an active participant, and I am foreign-born and nearly fifty”.

In addition, the weblogs are regularly visited by aldermen, council members, active members of immigrants’ organisations, journalists, and all kinds of people from the neighbourhood and from the rest of the city. “For example, I know that the council aldermen check the weblogs each morning to pick up signals from the neighbourhood”.

“If a subject is hotly debated on the weblogs, then this may sometimes move council members to ask questions. Or aldermen themselves ask their civil servants to find out what is going on”. A recent issue that stirs up feelings in Zeeburg are postings about the cutting of trees in the Javastraat.

When he was a council member, Cadat says, he did not mind using his own website and other media for a bit of campaigning, whether it concerned the location for a flower stand or the way in which the district was managed. “This was not always appreciated, not even by my fellow party members in the council. When you stand out, you will be closely watched”., Indische,

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