|Monday, August 18, 2014|
|Lessons from Somali Pirates on Community Development|
When you hear the word “pirate,” do you think of corsairs in wooden ships? Today’s reality, as dramatized in the film “Captain Phillips,” is malnourished men with automatic weapons in speedboats.
In 2012, piracy off the coast of Somalia cost an estimated $6 billion for security, higher fuel consumption, military operations, insurance and other expenses That’s about equal to the entire gross domestic product of Somalia. Now, research from the UK, reported in The Economist, suggests a better way to run those pirates aground.
Anja Shortland, an economist at King’s College London, and Federico Varese, a sociologist at the University of Oxford, studied patterns of hijacking and discovered something interesting. Somali clans control trade in their areas by issuing local licenses and charging taxes – a relatively safe source of income. It turns out that the only clans that offer protection to private are those with no other income, who need a share of their loot.
When Saudi Arabia imposed a ban on Somali livestock from 2000 to 2009, some coastal communities were especially hard-hit. They began offering refuge to pirates. When the ban was lifted and the clans could begin charging licenses and taxes again, the pirates soon found themselves in local jails.
The lasting solution to Somali piracy, then, is not to continue spending billions on securing ships and naval patrols, but to put a fraction of that amount into building roads and ports, installing communications and helping people trade.
This story made me wonder how many of the problems communities everywhere face today are fundamentally about a lack of opportunity. Economic opportunity. Educational opportunity. The opportunity to have our needs understood and to have a voice in decisions. The opportunity to give the next generation a better life.
All of the communities we profile in Brain Gain, our newest book, make opportunity their top priority. They have to – because the alternative is brain drain, as their most talented people leave in search of opportunity somewhere else. Opportunity is the pivot around which all of their programs and project turn, from broadband deployment and e-government to creating deep connections between their schools and businesses.
The more we focus on opportunity and how to create it in the 21st Century, the less we will have to focus on crime and punishment, ballooning health costs and shrinking budgets. The problems that confront us are so often not really the problems we need to solve. They are the symptoms of the much deeper challenges with which we must come to grips.
|Monday, August 11, 2014|
|Calling all Sticks & Slickers|
They used to call the place where I was raised, “The Sticks.” That is what they would call the village of Lyons, New York and other small towns “down there” in Manhattan, where I have lived for 30 years. For 30 years I have tried to find and maintain a balance between both places, although a few folks in the village did refer to me as the “city slicker” for long while. Language can separate people as much as distance.
We know that there are differences in size among the places we live, and we know that there remains an inferiority complex among the world’s rural communities, small towns and hamlets. Biases prevail, even in places that should know better, like Stockholm, Singapore and Brooklyn. In fact, the World Reference Forum still asks whether “the sticks” are further removed, geographically, than the evidently unreachable and, in the unenlightened mind, irrelevant “Middle of Nowhere.”
Since the dawn of the Intelligent Community movement in 1995, fewer and fewer people use those terms or ask questions like that. These are questions which reflect a time before the “Broadband Economy” presented itself in our screens. Since then the dialogue has been dramatically altered, and with it the language and perceptions of what is possible. As the Great Coral Reef was once referred to by the 18th Century explorer James Cook as ‘an insane labyrinth” (and for good reason, since in 1770 the coral ridge of Tasmania nearly sunk his ship), so it became perceived for what it is 200 year later, when the reef was declared a marine sanctuary by the Australian government. It is among the things which make life possible. It is not so far different than small towns.
It took those in the sticks and the city slickers working together to make it happen in Australia. It led to a social movement that I believe was the first salvo in the movement to protect our seas. It will be seen, someday, as the beginning of the long road ahead to restore the balance of the earth’s ecosystem. It also gave a boost to those smaller communities, where nature was still abundant and in balance.
Similarly, we hope our Rural Imperative will have an effect on the discussion of the importance of places like Pirai, Dakota County, Castelo de Vide and Mitchell. These four places, though small, submitted nomination forms in an attempt to show themselves that, like Taichung and Toronto, they were of the future. They succeeded. Mitchell, South Dakota (USA) likes to tell the story of how it grasped innovation, planned for the future and in the process became Intelligent.
Since we announced our 2015 Theme, we have been concerned that the submissions this year may come from only cities, where urban planning is part of the policy-making landscape. However, that would be contrary to the ICF method and dream, which is to ensure that any place people call “Home” can achieve at a global level and plan for the kind of life and economy that is sustainable.
As you consider whether to submit a nomination for your village, town or county, keep in mind that you too are either a “Revolutionary Community” at some level, or can be. By nominating your community to be evaluated with giants, you are not being David against Goliath. You are indicating your confidence that the place you are building, running or promoting is not only Smart and possibly Intelligent, it is also restoring the balance which we all know is out of whack. The “Middle of Nowhere” is no more – and has not been since 1995. Good luck.
|Wednesday, July 23, 2014|
|The Next Trail along the Great Divide|
Along with the successful economic migrations from poor to lower middle class in large swaths of the world, the rich really are getting richer. Many are getting rich because of the way knowledge is being “discovered,” deployed and productized. While most of the world still waits for access, the Digital Divide has moved on. A line is now being drawn between those with access and those who can interpret and understand information once connected. These people know how to put it into play economically. They have moved from the classroom to the canvas. They make raw material purposeful, and create a ladder for some as their work pulls it away from others. Most of the consequences are unintended, but all impact the community.
In the June 22nd issue of the New York Times there were two stories, a few column inches apart, that reaffirmed the gap between those with access and those who understand the power of access to thrive. I do not know if it was the editor’s decision to lay the story out this way, but the contrast was apparent. In one story, an Arizona (USA) woman making $10 per hour (when she could find work) was jailed upon getting into her car after an interview with an insurance company. If Shanesha Taylor had gotten that job (and she was confident that the interview had gone well), it would have given her real wages, health insurance coverage for her two children and dignity. The two kids were in the car because she could not afford day care and chose to take them along while she had her interview. The law reasoned that this was endangerment. Not unreasonable in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the car temperature was estimated at 103 degrees (F.) But people did not forget that this was a story about the Divide too. Through the Internet, money was raised for her defense and the media’s light found its way to Arizona. A settlement was reached a few days ago. She will not do jail time.
A few clicks below her story there was one profiling Yahoo Food and its marketing team. Their challenge was a bit different: they needed to decide whether to lure eyeballs to their site with a story about the history of foods from the ancient Silk Trail, or whether to publish a guide to cheese fries and other snacks that go well with ranch dressing. Decisions, decisions! Yahoo Food, whose sutra of wisdom includes “Treat Meat as a Condiment,” is an example of what we call the “lovely jobs,” in our new book, Brain Gain.
While we, the information rich, may be confident that our work is the equivalent of a divine endowment and will be rewarded, no matter how insipid, those stuck on the ladder trying desperately to use knowledge to find a job or to become more educated are not guaranteed success. Google CEO Eric Schmidt is “very worried” about this. His data suggests that the problem is getting worse. “If you look at the most recent studies of American economic growth, 99 percent of the people saw essentially no economic improvement over the last decade,” he wrote in his new book The New Digital Age.
What he didn’t say is that even among those of us in the 1% - including his company - yet another divide has formed. This is the dissatisfaction with knowledge work, or at least with “technology’s” impositions within it. Our mental health, psyches and purpose as individuals seem to be casualties of a crisis of the soul. It is a new inner conflict. Among even successful knowledge workers, the thinning of psychic reward is driving us toward burnout. We are grateful to be knowledge workers, of course, but too tired to give thanks! Tony Schwartz, whose Energy Project studies levels of satisfaction and sustainable engagement in the workplace, reported that only 30% of Americans feel engaged with their work. Globally, that number is a mere 13% Most people simply feel “overwhelmed.” In a study of 12,000 workers worldwide, 66% said that were absolutely unable to focus on one thing at a time at work – or probably anywhere else. The percentages of those feeling a sense of belonging, of connectedness to a community and a sense of overall satisfaction is low. Burnout has reached all the way to the CEO’s office.
What are we to make of the new wake-up calls? One is the impact on our communities.
I have been writing for years that communities were out of energy and out of balance until the concept of the Intelligent Community movement came along to raise the red flag. The Energy Project’s data confirms this. Even the foodies at Yahoo are too tired to produce much social capital when they get home after 16 hours on the job. And Ms. Taylor? Well, she needs to find a way to support her two children. Both suffer psychic fatigue.
While waves of middle classes continue to rise and thrive outside the borders of the mighty USA, the smiles on their faces as they shop their way through new stores and crank away in their comfortable cubicles, may fade. Their nations are catching up economically and technologically, and that is good. They are reaping the benefits from their parents’ generation. But what is next?
What we need to observe and to plan for in cities and communities is the creation of wealth that is sustainable because it comes with tools to use knowledge effectively in the next iteration of the economy. This includes ways to enable a deeper, more meaningful engagement at work, on the Internet and with our local governments and institutions. Oh yes, and with ourselves.
|Monday, July 14, 2014|
|Urban Planners and the Revolutionary City|
The revolutionary city! This is not a city under siege or under threat by terrorists. This is a city that uses all its efforts to understand, strategically plan for and actively position itself to truly transform and actively apply all of the ICT enabled opportunities and all of the smart systems and infrastructure at its disposal to allow its citizens to benefit from efficiencies, security, conveniences, experiences and opportunities available to them. It is also a city that works with its universities and all other educational institutions to be able to benefit from the knowledge, talent and resources available to them to help position the community with a knowledge-centric focus. This is a city where all its bureaucrats and other leaders pull together with a sense of collaboration; use all their efforts to be transparent though excellence in public policy; and create clear, concise and visionary directions for its community that all can embrace and act upon. This is a community that embraces an innovation and creativity ecosystem and is caring and sensitive to issues of health, environmental sustainability, safety and fairness to everyone. This is a community that an investor or someone with significant talent decides on with confidence.
Here are some well-planned cities that provide the confidence to companies and talented people to invest in: San Francisco, New York, Suwon, Taipei, Singapore, Melbourne, Toronto, Manchester, Chattanooga, Waterloo, Dundee, Austin, Stratford, Eindhoven, Barcelona, Glasgow, Columbus, Philadephia, Calgary, Issy-les-Moulineaux (Paris), Mitaka (Tokyo), Gangnam (Seoul), Stockholm, Quebec City, Taichung, Winnipeg, Ottawa, plus 100 other Intelligent Communities.
These well-planned cities are all Intelligent Communities. Think of Intelligent Communities = Excellence in Urban Planning and Urban Design.
Providing deliberate certainty through well thought through and crafted policies, land use decisions and the basis for creating the best environments possible in our communities are key constructs of urban and regional planning. Hence the revolutionary communities of tomorrow are those that are well planned for and being developed as Intelligent Communities today.
What would make cities and regions truly revolutionary is if we could see the best of its urban and regional planning and urban design implemented, especially using all of the planning tools, ultra-high-speed broadband connectivity and related technologies available to them. These might be off the shelf and in some cases, leveraging entirely new innovations with new uses and applications to demonstrate pilots and create new concepts and experiences in urban liveability. But it would also require superb leadership and collaboration throughout and a special sense of the community nurturing an innovation ecosystem that would help to differentiate it as being among the best in the world. This would capture the imagination of investors, scholars and talented people to want to be part of these types of communities.
Urban planning is not a science; it’s a combination of the arts, science, philosophy, sociology, economics and politics. Its theories and practices, delivered in the form of plans are a reflection of a language focused on the use of land by its citizens and the design of the urban environment upon which the site is to be developed on as well as reflected in its impact on the surrounding area. But as planning concerns itself with everything around it - including air, water and infrastructure in, around and through it, it must take a true 360 degree, all-encompassing look at everything related to its development. Therefore it must even look at its history and current relationship with other neighbouring land-uses and the people and things around it. Just as Cisco speaks of the Internet of Everything, so does Urban Planning. Planners must consider everything that makes up a community (or at least it should) in making their planning recommendations. Like the concepts of sustainability – everything connects to everything else.
A plan is a statement of intent; if given the mandate by the leadership and the funds to see it through, it can be very powerful. Current planning directions range from Urbanism or New Urbanism, Intelligent Urbanism, Liveable Cities, and so forth. Whatever is currently vogue in different parts of the world, planners must consider in context all of the elements of their unique community they represent in order to successfully deliver and execute their plans. For instance, Urban Designers consider built form, colour, lighting, building materials, art and technology in context to the urban situation in which they are planning for as well as the relationship between buildings, uses, sight-lines and the physical ground spaces in three dimensional form. This is also akin to the idea of liveable cities in which good urban design principles can create a high quality of life in dense but well-designed urban environments, such as Singapore. Planners and their colleagues in city design, development and management today also employ Computer-aided Design (CAD), Geographic information Systems (GIS), leverage the Internet of Things technologies to design for managing mobility – especially during rush hour traffic and the demands of supply chain logistics; smart technologies to develop, monitor and analyze big data, especially as part of incorporating smart utilities and smart systems into their communities; high-speed broad applications that offer new community development unique communications, entertainment and other new urban experiences; produce 3D planning models for enhanced public engagement, including those who become involved via online and web-based experiences; and some are looking into future building design options through holography and visual-support technologies. Building or using traditional environments and installing new technologies create exciting new environments that create a new experience that attracts investors and talent to a place. For instance, traditional brick and beam environments and reused lofts as live/work spaces attract artists and software code writers alike as long as high-speed broadband applications are also planned for and incorporated into the design of the facilities. Traditional open space and bike paths incorporate technologies for communications, directions, safety, and exciting new environmental experiences, such as art applications utilizing advanced software technologies, broadband communications and advanced visual projection techniques. Artist Daan Roosegaarde’s Van Gogh inspired illuminated bikepath near Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, and Ryan Holladay’s BLUEBRAIN location-based music composition using smartphones are only the beginning of the type of new experiences that our revolutionary communities will be exploring. These and other capabilities in urban environments make urban spaces and experiences attractive to people who want to live and work in these environments. Accordingly, it’s not a surprise that attractive and highly–in-demand intelligent and revolutionary urban centers are growing at an incredible pace.
Considering that nearly 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban centers by 2050, planners are going to have to do more than traditional planning efforts to meet these demands. Intelligent Communities understand these challenges and are making great strides to undertake serious strategic planning that focus on highly efficient mobility of all kinds, connectivity, accommodating all types of housing needs and ensuring sustainable development approaches to be able to support these changes. Urban Planners must be at the forefront of these efforts. As such, they must also be at the forefront of developing their communities into intelligent and revolutionary communities.
|Monday, July 7, 2014|
|Pigs, Cows and Footballs Need Broadband, Too|
The Internet turned 20 this year, by one measure at least. It was in 1994 that Netscape released the first commercial Web browser. Two years later, there were already some 16 million Web users in the world. There are nearly 3 billion of us now, despite the fact that three out of every five of world’s people have yet to go online.
Strange to say, a few pigs, cows and footballs may get there before them.
Despite the amazing progress of the past 20 years, the broadband revolution is just getting started. Nothing illustrates that better than the rise of the Internet of Things: devices talking to other devices over the Internet to accomplish some useful aim. I am grateful to Chee Sing Chan, writing in the Show Guide to CommunicAsia in Singapore, for some eye-opening examples.
Two companies, General Alert and 1248, have come up with temperature and chemical sensors for pigs that communicate wirelessly with the Internet. Attached to the skin or embedded under it, they track the many factors that contribute to health or signal the onset of disease: temperature, drinking water flow, feed rate, humidity, CO2 concentration and bodily acidity. Pigs still can’t fly but, through these devices, they can provide early warning of diseases like foot-and-mouth that can decimate a drove.
Cows have their own kind of online access. In this case, the companies are using Wi-Fi-connected collars and smart software to monitor when they go into “heat.” That may be information cows would prefer to keep to themselves, but it has real commercial value for dairy farmers. Nearly all cows are artificially inseminated, so failed attempts waste money. Impregnating cows also boosts milk production; according to a report by Singularity, missing a cycle of “heat” means lost sales of about five gallons of milk a day.
For World Cup fans, Adidas now has a football (soccer ball to Americans) that contains sensors connected wirelessly to a mobile device carried by players. They track the point of impact of every kick and measure the spin, speed and direction of the ball’s flight path. The feedback should help players get more out of the moment when foot, chest or head connects with the ball.
These entertaining examples are just the tiny white tip of one very large iceberg. As Intelligent Communities plan for the future, they do so knowing they must provide a platform for innovations that can hardly be imagined today, and that will demand greater and greater broadband capacity from city square to country farm. Remember: the pigs, cows and footballs of tomorrow are counting on you.
Photo credit ZDNet
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