Voices of Digital Communities

Live from Building the Broadband Economy 1-5

Live from Building the Broadband Economy #5 We are hearing from Professor Cheol-Soo Parkof SungKyunKwan University in Suwon, who was designated by the city's Mayor to ...

by / June 1, 2010
Live from Building the Broadband Economy #5

We are hearing from Professor Cheol-Soo Parkof SungKyunKwan University in Suwon, who was designated by the city's Mayor to represent him at Building the Broadband Economy.  ICF's co-founder John Jung, who visited Suwon, is leading the discussion.

Suwon is the home city of Samsung, which has a big impact on its economy.  The city administration has made massive investments in e-government and networks to create a ubiquitous online environment for connecting to crime prevention, fire prevention, traffic information, e-learning and citizen services.  John pointed out that Asian cities are unique in requiring a large amount of documentation from citizens.  Much of Suwon's work has focused on putting this paper trail online to vastly simplify the lives of citizens.  In the process, they have created a transparent government, in which all processes are visible and the integrity of its operations is assured. 

Suwon is also a major investor in business parks and industrial complexes, providing cheap land and attractive commercial terms for developers.  The city government also encourages the formation of large numbers of public-private joint ventures to stimulate the formation of businesses in leading-edge technologies.  The third leg of the stool is an active matching program between labor demand and supply, backed by strong re-education programs to keep employee skills up to date.  Samsung has been an important backer by providing major scholarships for lower-income students to gain an education and get into the pipeline to employment.  Education in Korea is very competitive; it is viewed as the key factor for success in life and the highest priority of society.  Suwon has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrading its educational infrastructure.  This has included the development of international language schools, including one that specifically aims to support the children of expatriates working in South Korea (and making Suwon a particularly attractive location for them). 

In Suwon, economic growth has given the community the power to begin sharing their good fortune with other nations.  The city funds development programs for cities in Cambodia to give back some of their good fortune.  The same spirit informs Suwon's programs to provide digital skills training to tens of thousands of low-income and less-educated citizens in order to ensure their inclusion. 

One of the first Korean words that foreigner learn is "bali," which means "fast."  Koreans like things to be fast.  Suwon strives to make its society deliver information anywhere, any time to any device to make its citizens' lives productive and happy.

Live from Building the Broadband Economy #4

We are listening to the Mayor Larry O'Brian of Canada's capital city, Ottawa, explain the priorities and practices that helped make the city one of ICF's Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year.  When he first became mayor, there were a handful of technology employers with a workforce of less than 2,000.  It was in the telecom meltdown at the beginning of the last decade that the troubles of those companies spawned dozens of start-ups, many of which have become highly successful.  In the current recession, that pattern is being repeated, aiming at the next generation of technologies from renewable energy to wireless networking.  Ottawa is currently spawning five new companies a week.

ICF's Lou Zacharilla pointed out that recessions are dangerous because people can vote with their feet by moving away in search of opportunity.  That has not happened in Ottawa partly because of a great quality of life but also because of countermeasures put in place to spur regeneration.  Mayor O'Brian described Lead to Win, a government-funded project that taps technology managers who lose their jobs with big companies, trains them in entrepreneurship, connects them with partners and potential customers, and provides seed funding.  It is programs like this because have allowed Ottawa to replace the 20,000 low-skilled manufacturing jobs lost in the last recession with higher-skilled jobs in engineering and business. 

Factoid: JR Booth was one of Ottawa's founders, a lumber baron who created the largest lumber company, not just in Canada, but in the world.  Entrepreneurship has deep roots.  The tradition is being carried forward by Terry Matthews, a serial entrepreneur whose venture company, Wesley Clover, recruits new graduates from local universities, puts them through an entrepreneur's boot camp, matches them with experienced mentors and gives them a year to create a company. 

Lou said he saw something remarkable when he was in Ottawa: a cultural presumption that those who know should mentor those who can benefit from their experience.  It permeates the business and entrepreneurial sectors, and has become instrumental in their success.  A digital media cluster has sprung up, powered by the community's strong broadband assets, and has organized itself.  Mayor O'Brian described attending a cluster meeting and being amazed and pleased that none of the companies appeared to have an exit strategy.  None were growing and grooming their companies for sale but expected to be running them for decades.  He found that an inspiring symbol of Ottawa's future. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010
Live from Building the Broadband Economy #3

I just finished a very interesting hour speaking in front of the audience with Anette Scheibe (CEO, Kista Science City, Stockholm), David Gourlay (Director Public Sector Business Development, Oracle), Joanne Hovis (CEO, Columbia Telecom Corp.) and Don Norris (CEO, Strategic Initiatives).  We were talking about whether and how ICT can supercharge educational achievement.  We discussed some cool technologies, from the use of social networking in instruction to dressing up lessons as video games in order to make them relevant to students. 

But mostly we talked about leadership, organization and infrastructure.  When Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside, in the audience, spoke passionately about the need for leadership from local government leaders, the panelists were all nodding their heads in agreement.  The biggest impact that community leaders can have, they said, is through exercising that leadership.  Community leaders need to be relentless about promoting educational achievement, and ensure that education does not stop at the school wall.  The demand for lifelong learning requires that ICT be used to deliver educational content 24x7.  It also requires the community to have broadband infrastructure that can provide serious bandwidth to enable multimedia and online collaboration. 

But there's another reason to open up the school walls.  Educational outcomes improve when classrooms connect to local business and institutional expertise, which also tends to keep graduating students in the community, where their skills can contribute to local prosperity.  Information and communications technology is the perfect tool to provide this integration, which is where the payoff really lies. 

Live from Building the Broadband Economy #2

Kevin MacRitchie - Cisco vice president and Cisco Fellow - Collaborative Broadband & Educational Technologies - is discussing the megatrends that are changing the world.  Ine developed countries, there is an hourglass shape to the population, with large young and  old populations but a smaller group in the productive working years in the middle.  This contrasts with developing nations, where there is more even distribution and overall population growth.  The emerging markets are moving very rapidly into the mainstream of the global economy and will reshape that economy.  Cisco has identified multiple opportunities created by these changes, from the growing Internet of Things to enabling people to live a connected life in every aspect of work, play and life. 

The world isn't flat, he says, it is spiky.  A graph showing where patents are filed, there are huge spikes in big cities in industrialized economies.  Does that mean Africa and Latin America don't matter?  No, it means that we have not yet figured out how to reach them.   Kevin described a project he worked on for the Indian Air Force.  They reserved a portion of their wireless bandwidth to put self-powered kiosks into Indian villages to give them their first exposure to the Web.  There was a big discussion about whether this would ruin their culture, or would it preserve the culture forever.  The villages are now able to sell some of their products and services on the global stage and finding that connectivity does expand and preserve their culture.  They are committed to giving 100% of their citizens access. 

In the 1950s, the most complex technology that schools had to work with was the adding machine.  In today's world, the complexity that educators must master before  they can begin to teach is huge.  We tend to teach the technology and think we're done.  Instead, we should be harnessing these tools to teach young people how to learn.  Today, it's about learning in real time and having access to information before we need it.  We looked at early e-learning and said it's never going to work: it was self-contained, did not connect to other resources, and lacked any access to instructors.  Challenging story of education: if today's e-learning produces the same results as live instruction, who needs live instructors?  Today's educators have to know how to teach students to learn, not just convey information to them. 

As we move to a world of continuous learning, we have to encompass from preschool to the end of life. More and more educational content needs to be delivered to adults, who need to be training for their next job while they are in their current one.  Kevin talked about his local school board, which wants to have great schools but does not want to connect education to any local business or expertise.  This is a defeatist model; the biggest problem the town has is that everybody grows up and moves away

Kevin talked about offering towns a "one-button snow day.'  If the 50 or 100 overlapping networks for voice, data, video, fire safety, police etc. are converged into one network, it becomes possible.  The network knows that if it's a snow day, the thermostats don't need to be turned up.  Teachers can receive emails telling them to say home.  Students can receive emails and voicemails announcing closure. 

Converged networks can have major financial impacts.  A study Kevin lead for the State of Michigan, where he lives, showed that a $1bn investment in network convergence would save the state $1bn per year in costs.  That's a no-brainer decision. 

Do your children want to learn Chinese?  Why should they have to have a local instructor, when high-def videoconferencing could connect them to instructors in China?  There are billions of learners in cities, rural areas, universities and lifelong learners who need to be served, and smart connected technologies make it possible.

Live from Building the Broadband Economy #1

I'm in the audience at our Building the Broadband Economy summit, where Jerry Hultin, President of Polytechnic Institute, is explaining Polytechnic's incubator program, which is written up in today's Wall Street Journal .   In a story about the City of New York, he told about how the city lost A&T to neighboring New Jersey back in the 1970s, but is now finding that it cannot retain the best and brightest computer scientists by asking them to live in Bedminster or Basking Ridge.  So it is moving its cybersecurity labs back into the City of New York.  The quality of cities is going to determine where people live, in a world where you can live anywhere and work anywhere.  Dr. Hultin also praised China for the seriousness, scale and intensity they are bringing to scientific research, which is identifying all of the critical-path issues facing the world and assembling a research agenda to attack them. 

Our master of ceremonies, John Jung, has just introduced a delegation from Chengdu, China, whom he met while traveling in China for the past three weeks.  Nice round of applause for people who have come from the far side of the planet to join us at Building the Broadband Economy.  Up next: a fascinating presentation from Kevin MacRitchie of Cisco Systems. 

Robert Bell Co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum

Robert Bell is co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, where he heads its research and content development activities. He is the author of ICF's pioneering study, Benchmarking the Intelligent Community, the annual Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year white papers and other research reports issued by the Forum, and of Broadband Economies: Creating the Community of the 21st Century. Mr. Bell has also authored articles in The Municipal Journal of Telecommunications Policy, IEDC Journal, Telecommunications, Asia-Pacific Satellite and Asian Communications; and has appeared in segments of ABC World News and The Discovery Channel. A frequent keynote speaker and moderator at municipal and telecom industry events, he has also led economic development missions and study tours to cities in Asia and the US.