I loved this post - so much so that it inspired me to write up a response: http://t.co/w1JcAgN4 http://t.co/pER5Pirv

June 25, 2012 • Posted by admin in Relevant • • 0 comments  

I read with great interest Craig Settles’ recent post on GigaOm entitled “Does Kansas City own the business?” Craig asks the simple question: “Has Kansas City taken full ownership of the business of broadband?”

I happen to also be thinking about and tracking this issue, as this happens to be exactly the topic and area of focus that my new company – Digital City Mechanics (“DCM”)  is focused on.  In fact I intend on MOVING to Kansas City – just so we can deploy our methodology and approach in that fine BBQ laden town.

But rather than focus on the broadband infrastructure, which Om and his “Structure” conferences have been focusing on - DCM is focused on what you “do WITH the broadband infrastructure.”

eg. What I’d like to answer Craig with is this - “there’s a NEW kind of PPP (public-private partnership) coming into focus – but it’s one where government is a PARTNER in the process and they’re NOT in control.”

We (DCM) don’t necessarily feel that there is a “killer app” to find when it comes to broadband infrastructure.  Rather we feel that the one significant thing that will arise of this new kind of PPP that is required when government and business get together to take advantage of gigabit networking – is jobs.

New kinds of on-line jobs, which are NOT the programming jobs that CodeAcademy, Hackety and Lynda.com are helping to create. Rather we think there is a whole new category of jobs, based on what most of us call the “digital economy ecosystem” – the on-line, part-time, virtual jobs – which DCM believes can be the professions for huge swaths of society of “normal” people – living in Kansas City, Jamaica, Tampa or even Weirton, WV.

Craig supposes in his post that each city’s broadband infrastructure should be owned and controlled by local government, rather than by the private sector – as we’ve seen in the past a lack of success when private sector comes in and competes with the likes of Telcos and cable operators.

But I’d like to give a little pushback here and disagree and suppose a NEW kind of PPP which involves (what we see) as the missing link in PPP surrounding broadband infrastructure.  The people.  The citizens who elect government and who suffer a HUGE disconnect with their local politicians and with government in general.

The world of broadband infrastructure has been (for years) focused on fiber optic installations, switches, right-of-way and other hardware oriented technical factors – all leading to some sort of “business model” which can justify the huge expenditures necessary to pay for this infrastructure.  But what’s missing from these models is what you do WITH all this bandwidth?

Researchers, pundits and techocrats focus on the (so-called) killer app and Obama’s administration just announced the USIgnite program. Hopefully we all can see through this obvious election year plow and see it for what it is – academic, technocrat theories of economic development, which may pay for research – but that’s about it.  I love them simplifying the complexity of getting right-of-way paths negotiated – but that’s about it for USIgnite.

What I’d like to propose is that the killer app of broadband – is not the broadband itself, but rather the jobs and “digital economy ecosystem” which arises FROM the heightened interest, investment and PPP that is required to create the infrastructure – in the first place.  We’re not talking about remote surgery, ultrafast networking or some sort of new eCommerce app.

We’re talking about a stable, local, open web which hyper-local relationships, commerce and flowing ecosystems – can pass across.

Now I don’t want you to think that I don’t support Craig’s 7 points and insights for success for any city’s broadband buildout strategy.  Rather – I’d like to insist that he go FURTHER and add a few insights of my own.

Point #1 – local champions

It’s clear that every city needs a champion to evangelize the coming of broadband and help convince locals that the costs, cooperation and efforts required to get local broadband infrastructure developed in their city or region is required.  That’s what Geoff Daily does in Lafayette, LA with his Fibercorps efforts – where they’ve found healthcare to be a sympathetic model to work with.

But I also see that this evangelistic role can be played by a company – who sees itself as the “cookie cutter” template creator – which goes into city after city, region after region around the world, playing the role of “instigator” or “change agent.”  That’s what DCM is doing.

Helping to create local broadband infrastructure is a rather complex system integration process and what’s required is a hybrid altruistic/for-profit model which builds on the interest piqued by consultants such as Craig Settles, Mark Ansboury and David Sandel and evangelized by the likes of Geoff Daily.

Mark and his ‘Gigabit Squared’ company has recently announced a $200m fund to pay for local broadband infrastructure and this is an example of one of the new models being created – around the world – to facilitate local government, business and citizens working together to build-out tomorrow’s locally controlled and owned broadband infrastructure.

But my new company – DCM does not focus on the hardware infrastructure.  We’re focused on (what we call) “software infrastructure.” We focus on working WITH local government, business and citizens to create, operate and maintain the on-going programs, one-projects and on-line services necessary to spawn local “digital economy ecosystems.”  As a business.

These ecosystems create cyber-savvy workforces which put workers to work on a part-time basis, rather than fall into the rut most economists, economic development agencies and workforce training efforts think that jobs ARE.  That’s the FIRST problem we’re solving - changing the attitude and mindset of government – helping to divert their billions of dollars in expenditures so that these funds can get utilized more efficiently and effectively in this world-wide crisis we find ourselves facing right now.

“What is a job?” is changing and unless government understands that – we’ll continue to have a disconnect between where the economic development effort dollars are spent – and where the jobs of the future ARE – for normal people.  I’m not talking about programming jobs here – but (wait….. I’m repeating myself.)

NOTE: GigaOm has understood this fundamental change – for years – and that’s why they publish WebWorkerDaily.

Point #2 – single purpose

Here I agree and disagree with Craig. I guess when it comes to local government it’s important to keep things simple and only talking about ONE thing at a time keeps things simple.  But I see the world as a complex meta-ecosystem of inter-connecting agendi and purposes.  Ansboury sees the standard “triple play” (Voice, Internet and TV) as the answer – and it’s WONDERFUL to hear about Danville, VA’s focus on jobs – but to create jobs – you really DO need to have a whole BUNCH of factors, ecosystems and agendi working in parallel – and (again) that’s where DCM comes in.

We see the combination of technology and sociology (to borrow a phrase from the KC playbook) as the solution.  We’re developing an open source, free platform approach which provides training curriculum, real-time video help and a wide range of (what I call) “digital lifestyle aggregation” features.  This is why I started “Broadband Mechanics” my ‘other’ company and what I have been talking about (it seems like) for years.

In fact I’m writing this from Trieste, Italy which is where we first came up with the idea of a Citizen Dashboard – 14 years ago.

The idea is that a “Citizen Dashboard” specification is supported by government and that commercial vendors support this spec and…… (ooops sorry – I know you don’t want to know TOO many details, so I’ll stop here……. For those who DO want details, here’s a $1m, 5 month, 50 jobs model….)

Point #3 – plan ahead

Indeed hiring folks like Craig, Mark and David Sandel is required, but so is having some sort of ‘catalytic event” which forces local politicians hands – and gets decisions made.

In fact I can tell you that in my home town of Cleveland, OH they’ve turned “planning ahead” into the fine art of ‘procrastinating and scooping out as much government money cash as they can – while that funding comes cascading down the hill – causing actually NOTHING to happen at all.’ That’s Cleveland.

In Jamaica this summer’s Olympics and their 50th Anniversary was their catalyst.  In Kansas City – it’s Google.  In Tampa, FL it’s this summer’s RCN convention being held there.  Politicians move – only when they HAVE to – and its this fine balance between vision, voter pressure and economic sense – that we’re striving for.

I should plug the Kansas City playbook here.  It’s AWESOME! We think of it as a giant set of RFPs – exactly designed to identify and hire folks – like DCM!

Point #4 – sustainable models

This is where DCM’s approach starts to shine.  Rather than installing broadband infrastructure in the promise of ‘triple play’, DCM takes the approach that once the jobs start to flow and an ecosystem effect is felt, than additional funding will be complemented by participation in (what we call) “locally conscious enterprises” paying for local projects – which put local workers – to work.

We also think that our open platform can start generating revenue – and that it’s the combination of:  government and foundation support, locally sponsored projects AND revenues from an open platform will be able to sustain the local ecosystem.  It’ll look slightly different in each city or region, but that’s the point.  The Oil services industry of Lafayette, LA wants to sponsor their message and pay for jobs in ONE way while H&R Block and Sprint want to pay for something entirely different in Kansas City.

Each city is different and that’s where DCM’s open source “Red Hat” model comes in.  Or maybe it’s a new kind of system integrator “Accenture” model.  Certainly IBM, Intel and Cisco thinks there’s money here – as the (so-called) “Smart City” market is projected to grow to umpteenth billions of dollars over the next few years.

That’s the market DCM is positioning itself – into.  There’s lots of money to be made – creating jobs – and once we prove our model we’ll be deploying our system around the world – ’cause every city wants to be a “Digital City.”

Point #5 – marketing Digital Cities to its Citizens

This is also where DCM comes in.  Craig says “The community has to drive much of the marketing in partnership with providers.”  That’s called UGC dude (user generated content.)  That’s called “video community newsletters.”  Ever heard of YouTube?  Or Vimeo?

Just teach the people how to create and edit videos and stand back.

THOSE are the jobs I’m talking about.  THOSE are the skill sets we’re referring to.

Point #6 -  owning relationships

This is where I have to disagree with Craig. Governments don’t own relationships.  In fact the sheer audacity of this statement shows where Craig is coming from.  Kansas City is trying its best to coordinate cats, herd cattle and spawn a digital economy ecosystem in KC - and I assume that was the deal they struck with Google when they won the contest.

But I’m afraid that this is where Craig’s whole model has to be flipped.  Citizens own themselves.  Business is gonna do what they can to exploit and take advantage of both government and citizens.  And poor government is just a link in the chain.


Point #7 – accountability

Indeed – or to say this differently - “no shit!”

DCM’s approach to accountability is full transparency.  Every job created by our efforts will be displayed on a public “Job Board” – which will display the worker’s name, what project they were employed on, when the job began and ended (cause ALL jobs come to an end), what skills they were employed for and who wrote them their paycheck.  Anything less than that is – well – the status quo.

In Ohio the “Third Frontier Foundation” talks about spending $1B, creating ~55,000 jobs and spending the median costs of ~$57,000 per job. Only one problem – nobody can find where these jobs are!  That’s standard operating procedures for economic development agencies.

There’s NO accountability and the money is continuing to get spewed out – even in election years like 2012!

Unless its not clear yet – DCM’s approach is to divert and hijack the so-called “broadband infrastructure” build-out movement and turn it into an “digital economy ecosystem” movement.  That’s the business we’re in and that business is a hybrid between altruistic and for-profit motivation.  That’s not such a strange thing to propose.

Creating jobs is the #1 issue in society today and on-line virtual jobs – are the jobs of the future.  And I’m not talking about programming jobs.  I’m talking about:

- on-line researcher

- video editor, media manager, creator designer

- book keeper, virtual office manager

- personal assistant, travel booking, operations, etc.

- virtual project manager

- event planner, event producer

- sales and marketing (don’t get me started – as GroupOn shows exactly how NOT to do this job!)

- webmaster, mail lists (duh!)

- social media maven

- tech support, hand holding, mentoring

- the list goes on and on…….

None of these jobs require one to be a programmer and ALL of them can be done at home, with a computer.  That’s how we’re going to put 1,000,000s to work.  And when I say workers, I don’t mean just young people.  I mean baby boomers, moms returning to work, returning vets and anybody else – who needs a job!

- Marc Canter, Trieste, Italy

Date: Monday, June 25th, 2012 | Time: 1:45 am
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