Most Important Principles for Leaders of "Intelligent Communities"

Each year the Intelligent Community Forum Summit celebrates initiatives around the world that increase opportunities presented by investments in new technologies. They announce the "Intelligent Community" of the year (this year it is Melbourne, Australia) based on a set of indicators covering: Broadband, Knowledge Workforce, Innovation, Digital Equality, Sustainability, and Advocacy. 

At this year's Summit I led a panel discussion on the "Internet of People" with a venerable group of colleagues:  Andres Henriquez, VP, STEM Learning in Communities, New York Hall of Science, Chris Lawrence, VP Mozilla Leadership Network, John Horrigan, Senior Research Pew Research Center, and Susan Benton, CEO and President, Urban Libraries Council. All  of us are generally positive about the opportunities presented by digital innovation, yet based on decades of the Internet experience, we are also aware that digital innovation leads to mixed results. 

How can we do better?  With significant gaps in digital fluency, education, and workforce readiness to ensure our society has 21st century skills such as new media literacy, design mindset, trans-disciplinarity and computational thinking, we discussed visions, desired outcomes, work already underway, and most critically opportunities to leverage potential "smart city" investments of anywhere between $780B to $1.4T.  The goal - to reduce the pervasive digital poverty that deprives the neediest from the opportunities afforded by ICT's AND to ensure we don't create other digital divides. 

There is much to say.  For brevity's sake I am sharing what the panelists provided as the most important piece of advice to the community leaders responsible for their intelligent communities.  The answers are principles that we can all follow.
  • Connect people not just devices
  • Invest in institution building such as libraries, science centers, schools so that investments benefit people throughout their day and their lives
  • Trust is a critical part of information literacy and digital skills building.  Partner with institutions that have it.  
  • Engage the community in design to ensure cultural agency. If the solution (infrastructure, programs, services, etc.) is designed by people who look like the community, higher usage and participation is likely.
In summary, what we do to improve our ability to achieve our aspirations in a world driven, at least in part, by digital innovation, rests on the human factor.

By Mary Lee Kennedy

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