take it to the next step, but we wanted to see if we could create a private/ public collaboratory -- an agreement among senior people in government and in industry to work with the university in taking this to the next step. How do we reawaken civic pride? How do we get more and more people involved in their own government rather than just complaining about what is happening in Sacramento or Washington, D.C., or somewhere in the world, and continuing to pass the buck to their elected representatives? Could we rekindle interest?

Supervisor Golding, now Mayor Golding of San Diego, decided she wanted to do something with this idea. This led to formation of the City of the Future Committee. We deliberately didn't call it the telecommunications committee or the technology committee. It was important for people to see that this was not just about technology but about their own future, and that technology was playing a critical role simply because technology and economics had a life force of their own.

So we formed the City of the Future Committee. And we then formed 10 subcommittees and there were over 300 people who got involved in one aspect or another. We tried to divide it up in such a way that people could identify. Maybe it was a library subcommittee or maybe it was an education subcommittee or maybe it was tourism. We tried to divide up life and work into sectors of the economy or society that everybody identified with. The result was that we generated a lot of participation. This was the basis for the first -- and what is now an annual -- Cities of the Future Conference.

Today, there are perhaps 100 groups that are meeting throughout the San Diego area who claim they are responsible for creating "San Diego, the City of the Future." In other words, the idea has taken on a life of its own.

GT: It seems that all this is coming out of a vision of what the role of the city will be in the context of a global information economy.

Eger: We have just published a Guidebook on Smart Communities which addresses this. The work we were doing in San Diego came to the attention of other communities who started coming to us and saying, "well, we are doing something smart too. But it is different from what you are doing. Yet you seem to have captured an enthusiasm and an interest from so many more people. Why is that?"

Well, I hadn't thought about it either, but fortunately, California and many other states have been trying to develop their own state initiatives. There are a lot of national initiatives, starting with France as far back as 1976. There is Singapore's Intelligent Island project, Japan's Technopolis project. A lot of these major national information strategies preceded the Clinton-Gore NII. But when Clinton and Gore began talking about information technology as the tools of wealth creation -- and information as the new wealth -- they had their intended impact.

But when it came to state governments developing their own initiatives, we began to say that we were not so sure they should simply be adopting a me-too approach and mirror the NII or any national information infrastructure. At the highest level I think it is good that our national leaders recognize the power of technology as a catalyzing influence. But really what we need now is not so much an NII, but an LII, a local information infrastructure. Eighty percent of the country is already wired. But that other 20 percent represents every small community throughout the country.

But more than just connectivity, there is the question of what are you going to do when you get connected? This gets down to the nitty-gritty of the applications in health care and education and business and government itself. These applications are where the energy needs to be spent. So when California began talking about an SII, as the Western Governors have been talking about, we said we're not so sure this is they way you want to go. The whole idea of top-down infrastructure and top-down programs may be pass

Blake Harris  |  Editor