Hyper Local – No Place Like Home

Lou and ICF awaited the Top7 at the American Museum of Finance on Wall Street.

Did anyone notice that Washington D.C. declared “Infrastructure Week” during the week of June 6? (LOL)

Fortunately, a few hundred miles north of the USA’s skittish capitol, in New York, the actual work of the new global infrastructure was on display. During the ICF’s first Summit in New York since 2014, we really were talking seriously about how broadband, knowledge work and implementing exotic things like the “Triple Helix” in Vietnam were bringing hope, prosperity and real change in the places we call “home.”

There is hope at the local levels. In fact, while national governments have their own “hyper” moment right now, local communities are giving “hyper” a good name.

This year’s Summit was also a Moveable Feast. One thing you need to know about an #ICFSummit: we really do not like to be in one place, especially some stale, over-chilled hotel conference room. When we do our thing we want people to experience the hyper city of New York, not the hype from a hotel conference room podium. A hotel is not a city.

A city is.

We like to move people around them – and especially our home city. And we did. We tried to demonstrate the “Internet of Cities” theme in as many ways, and in as many places, as possible.

We started people off at Microsoft’s Headquarters on West 42nd Street for the annual CIO Roundtable. Thanks to Moez Chaabouni, formerly Deputy CIO at the City of Columbus, and now with Informatica, for this extraordinary start to the Summit.

After this we started moving west, in the direction of the Hudson River and across Times Square, to the Australian Consulate. Here, a robust matchmaking session among the Top7 Intelligent Communities of the Year, our sponsors and other invited guests took place. You could see Chrysler Building as you explored ways to engage fellow Intelligent Communities and others.

Earlier, the offices of Paul Hastings on Park Avenue were the site of the ICF Foundation board meeting. From far above Grand Central Station, board members were able to gaze down on the Manhattan skyline as they collectively declared, publicly, that broadband is an essential utility and service.

We kept heading west, this time to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office on Fifth Avenue. In Manhattan you cannot go any further east, because Fifth Avenue is our equivalent of the “Great Divide” between East and West. We found ourselves in the New York home of the government of Taiwan and, with our new ICF Taiwan organization on hand, we felt very much at home. I feel like Taiwan is my second home. For real.

There, we welcomed people to the Summit with a panel session about New York’s Internet of the City approach, featuring several key players and friends in the New York broadband and economic development and business world.
We stayed there with our friends from Taiwan as TECO’s New York head, Ambassador Lily Hsu welcomed us and, with help from our

ICF Taiwan organization, provided us with a reception. (Note: the dumplings that night were another reason to love Taiwan! Amazing.)

As we left for dinner, our hotels or our homes to plan the next day, people realized that all of this had taken place on the same street! 42nd Street . . .

Liberty’s Gaze

The next day we shipped our delegates by ferry to Staten Island, where the borough president Jim Oddo greeted them and seemed genuinely amazed that a group of Intelligent Community leaders from around the world would descend on the College of Staten Island to talk about transforming it – I mean transforming the world, not Staten Island. But an island of 800,000 people that is rebuilding after getting clobbered by the great Northeastern Storm Sandy, and which IS part of New York City, is also being transformed. Borough President Oddo insisted on learning more and insisted we come back soon.

When I asked them, about 85% of the people in the room said that on that morning they had sailed past the Statue of the Liberty for the very first time. The poetry of this image, against the current political climate and thinking about “infrastructure” and what it means, could only be missed by anyone who thinks a wall will trump a bridge when it comes to enabling access. Infrastructure? It must be built for access by all and using intelligence and community assets as raw materials.

Again, you do not rebuild from whatever “carnage” you perceive by being hyper, you do it by persistently and often quietly working at hyper speed, locally.

Access was the topic of the hour. The Ferry then left for southern Manhattan – in part thanks to Proeterra – and extraordinarily sustainable new electric bus company that is selling thousands of their vehicles to cities. It gave us access back to the island of Manhattan.

We landed back onshore against the glimmer of the Financial District and Wall Street. The “Street,” as the financial folks call it, was ready for the Top7 and the welcoming words of the Borough President of Manhattan, Gale Brewer. As she has done since 2004, Gale told them that they were all needed in New York and invited them to stay.

The Canadian Consulate General in New York, Phyllis Yaffee, whose generosity helped make the event possible – along with our ICF Canada organization and Clearcable - encouraged people to celebrate as one at the American Museum of Finance at 48 Wall Street. She was quite good at reminding us how great Canada is with her remarks. (Of course, with two communities in the Top7 this year, the international audience didn’t need much persuasion.)

If there needed to be a demonstration of the roles of government as enablers and protectors, and the private sector as innovators and creators of wealth, it was inside this reconverted Bank of New York gem. Bulls and Bears have run loose in lower Manhattan since the Dutch arrived there. On Wednesday night, the Top7 were made to feel looser and prouder than ever before because of what they had achieved. Among those things was their skill at enabling the infrastructure of their communities to take root and to produce results.

Of course, the tension mounted as the evening ended, as folks began thinking about who among the seven would get the next trophy in the Intelligent Community of the Year Awards Series the following night. I was thinking, as is our customer at ICF, that one of these seven (when named) would be required to give me a new tie. More on that important aspect of my wardrobe “infrastructure” next.

Louis Zacharilla
Co-Founder of the Intelligent Community Forum. Louis Zacharilla helped found the Intelligent Community movement. He is the developer of the Intelligent Community Awards program. He is a frequent keynote speaker and a moderator at conferences and events.
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