As communities expand and the world seems to grow smaller, people are increasingly expected to be aware of the world's common knowledge. Although the complexities of modern life have resulted in the creation of systematic structures of communication to replace the collapsing of informal methods, citizens in small communities remain uninformed about local issues, or misinformed through word of mouth communication and haphazard placement of public notices. Established means of information and publicity, such as a local newspaper and area radio or television stations are not used to supply any depth of penetration into the community to publicize events and provide general information about plans, news and projects. Therefore, issues are discussed and decisions made with no structured channels available to inform citizens.
Many small communities receive international and national news whilst at the same time there is no real system for the regular communication of coordinated, objective local news. Because rural areas often have no postal service, telephone, or public transportation, they are often out of touch with the information needed for their development. Often there is no local newspaper, community bulletin board or other clearing house for public announcements and events; no available centralized source of basic information on taxes, city structures and ordinances; documents which might untangle the maze of property ownership, if they exist, may be difficult to locate. Factual data such as police jurisdiction, land ownership and safety rules are often unclear or their existence unknown. Social agencies which generate self-help services demand a sophistication in programming and a literacy level which does not exist in many such areas. Even though the school may have a library, there may be no local public library; and there may be no public means for residents to share their views on community issues. The only system of internal communication may be the telephone, and residents remain uninformed or misinformed through word of mouth communication and haphazard placement of public notices. In the absence of dissemination of information of community-wide interest, people are resigned to feeling excluded from the centre of action and from the right to participate in community affairs; they assume that 'others' have inside knowledge of specific issues and will deal with them.
Local economic development does not progress because basic data is not distributed. This may be because the data is obscured by its specialized nature; or residents may experience difficulty in sorting through the many sources and agencies involved; they may feel that they lack the expertise to comply with proposal-writing requirements; guidelines may change before they are able to submit a proposal; finally, there appears to be a kind of victimization at work which prevents them from rapidly benefiting from any knowledge obtained. For example, there is little demonstration locally of the results of recent agricultural research; the market potential for possible commercial ventures is not explored; and opportunities for discussion are limited. As a result, areas of common concern are not dealt with; people claim to be uninformed about topics to be discussed at local meetings; students have limited access to books, newspapers and magazines in their homes; there is little knowledge of health care and nutrition, or of available preventive health and health education programmes, and consequently, diets of high starch and canned goods are common; and inappropriate sanitation practices continue because people are unaware of the necessity of using better systems.