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March 20, 2005

Fiddling While Rome Burns - A Proposal for A Cleveland Terminal Tower Electronic Village and Science and Technology School

Tonight, the curtain comes down on the last screening of this year's brilliant 29th annual Cleveland International Film Festival. One of my all time favorite films is Quo Vadis (1951) with a superb Peter Ustinov playing Nero who of course fiddles while Rome burns and wonders just before he is killed why no one loves him. If there were ever a call for a remake of this classic, Cleveland would have it share of candidates for the role of Nero. The powerful and imperial, those destined to immortality and greatness in the annals of our city, all share a modern "nero complex" as it relates to the future of our City. As the Greater Cleveland Partnership has coined the term, "Cleveland is on the Edge." Candidates for the role of Nero abound. Dire predictions and pyromaniacs ready to throw fuel on the flames are a dime a dozens. If we don't build a Convention Center.... If we don't turn the Flats into Charity Poker and Gaming Facilities... and so forth. If it were easy, we would be following a tried and true cook book. The fact that there is dialogue in our city about its future is very healthy. We need more engaged conversation and the major actors in the scene should not only be politicians and developers. Indeed, the most important opportunity that presents itself today is the future of our schools. How can Cleveland's politicians, developers, educators, and concerned parents and citizens build on the efforts underway within the public school system to prepare students for success in the 21st century?

Success should be measured by student passion for learning and family support for and engagements with the life of the mind. We have remarkable institutional and human assets in Cleveland that are not fully optimized to this goal. Indeed, many of our most important 20th century assets like our downtown library, museums, office towers, transportation and telecommunication infrastructure could be, indeed should be, repurposed for the needs of a 21st century digital city.

Over the past year or so, a couple of colleagues in the OneCleveland initiative have circulated a bold and potentially transformational proposal to create The Cleveland Terminal Tower Electronic Village and Science and Technology School. The eVillage will be a 400 student -- technology and science magnet school in the heart of downtown Cleveland.

Located in the heart of the City, the School will be part of a unique science and technology environment including a state-of-the-art science library facility at the downtown Cleveland Library, a state-of-the-art science lab at the Great Lakes Science center with curricular and lab support from NASA Glenn, Cleveland State, Tri-C, and Case, and state-of-the-art technology internships and placements associated with activities of the City of Cleveland and OneCleveland based in the downtown core.

The goal of the School is to:

* improve the quality of science and technology curriculum in the CMSD

* attract and retain families in Cleveland on the basis of the magnet school serving families and their students interested science and technology education.

* establish a positive proof of collaborative community engagement in urban America to raise education standards and the future of the nation's science and technology workforce.

The vision of the Terminal Tower Electronic Village and Science and Technology School is to establish a national model for school-based service learning in which teams of students will be assigned "clients" which allow the students to integrate curriculum with technology and allow clients to receive supervised and contextually rich technology deliverables.

Physically situated in the heart of Cleveland, accessible via public transportation from all over the City, the Terminal Tower Electronic Village and School will, over time, be able to support a selective admissions policy among deserving and capable students. In addition, Tri-C, Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University would be asked to actively work with the Cleveland Scholarship Program explore making up to 5 scholarships each, per year, to qualified students graduating at the top of their class for a complete 4 year degree, valued in total to more than $500,000 per year (per cohort of 5).

In addition to master teachers in scientific and technological subject matter from industry, colleges, museums, and the school district, the school curriculum tied to State Standards, all subject matter will be informed by an experiential, hands-on learning environment that will involve project-based outcomes informed by student competencies in subject mater and represented through multimedia, digital media recording, animation, computer programming and other technology-related skills.

Another unique aspect of the Terminal Tower Electronic Village is the relationship between the curriculum, the technology and its corporate sponsors. Situated physically in the same facility are some of the nation's largest telecommunications companies. In addition, a top ten list of technology vendors, representing strategic technology partnerships has been identified. In addition to investments in the Village, technology partners will provide students with applied environments for summer internships and after school opportunities. In addition, technology partners will be asked to recruit as many as 5 graduating students from the School. Finally, corporate sponsors will explore setting up a "stay in school" College Fund, providing 5 graduating students with scholarships of up to $10,000/year to be applied towards either Cleveland State University or Case Western Reserve University.

Another significant differentiator to the Terminal Tower School is the commitment to leverage the unique laboratory assets of the Great Lakes Science Center to become an integral feature of the science curriculum. Not only is the Great Lakes Science Center an amazing physical resource with its own considerable education assets, but through partnerships to be developed and enhanced with NASA Glenn, the Center will be one of the finest School labs in the United States of America.

Finally, the City of Cleveland, Cleveland State University, the Cleveland Municipal School District, Cuyahoga County, and Case Western Reserve University have more than 100,000 sq feet of IT data centers and machine rooms in the downtown corridor. In a collaborative effort with these major IT assets, the School curriculum and hands on experiential learning framework could provide its students with a unique applied environment. Students both at the University-Level and the High School Level will form mentoring teams and be assigned to opportunities in the area of operations, systems management, network engineering, database administration and technical architecture.

Future planning considerations involve possible collaboration with the RTA on developing a transportation academy for the 21st century (again strategically situated at Terminal Tower), a public service and technology academy coordinated with public safety, water, and other leading technology-based departments from the City of Cleveland, working relationships with the Rock Hall of Fame, NASA, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Sheraton/Marriott, the United Way, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Institute of Art, Convention and Visitor's Bureau, West Side Market, along with Community Technology Centers.

With proposed corporate support from Forest City, Key Bank, National City Bank, SBC, Sprint, Adelphia, Qualcom, Verizon, Oracle, Sun, IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Intel, Blackboard, Dell Computers, and EMC, just to mention a few prospects, the Cleveland Terminal Tower Electronic Village and School is a unique opportunity to:

* Revitalize downtown Cleveland
* To enable education to be an engine of clean economic growth for Cleveland
* To enable collaboration and cooperation among the education assets in the community
* To mobilize the community around an exciting, bold, and transformational effort
* To support workforce preparation
* Adult High School Evening program and "back to work" programs
* To spawn downtown smart and green housing opportunities
* To create upstream and downstream economic opportunities
* To advance the OneCleveland digital infrastructure initiative to wire all of Cleveland
* To approach technology knowledge acquisition in the deliberative context of an urban setting
* A replicable model for the nation on making good on the digital promise
* Creating technology vendor and public education partnerships that are based on mutual interest

I'm looking for a couple good players ready to help re-write history and take on the 21st century Neros. Drop me a note if you'd like to take a deep dive on this venture.

Lev Gonick

Posted by lsg8 at 12:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2005

Out of Africa: OneCleveland and the Rethinking of the Digital Divide

It's just another Monday. The headlines in the local paper are predictable . The city school system is in a death spiral. Local politicians are quibbling about irrelevancies. The press reaffirms its indispensable contribution to our great town by ambulance chasing and reporting on politicians and their breakfast budgets. Meanwhile, half way around the world, its also Monday and a gathering is taking place on the Lake Geneva shoreline that no one in Cleveland knows about.

Tomorrow morning (Mon.3.14.05) at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland a meeting has been convened. The meeting is the inaugural ceremony of the digital solidarity fund. After 18 months of international dialogue, led by international technology power houses like the City of Dakar (in Senegal)and the City of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso)tomorrow is the day that 100s of cities from around the world will officially sign the Charter of the so-called Geneva Principle.

I am often asked what can "cities do" to help advance their own "OneCleveland" initiative in order to address community priorities. This is the answer to the question as to how individuals, families, and communities are able to fully participate in controlling their own destinies and the destinies of their cities. As Mark Warschauer has written in his book Technology and Social Inclusion, the ability to access, adapt, and create new knowledge using new information and communication technology is critical to social inclusion in today's society. That's the premise of some of my previous musing on poverty alleviation and the OneCleveland project. So, how can Cities contribute to this positive outcome? It turns out that one of the answers is based on working together to embrace the Digital Solidarity Fund as a form of public policy.

Here is a bit of the text from the Geneva Principle.

"The Geneva Principle involves a 1% contribution on public ICT (information and communication technology) procurement contracts, paid by the vendor on his profit margin (to the Digital Solidarity Fund). Clearly stated in all ICT public call for bids, this obligation to contribute 1% of the transaction to the Fund is neither subject to interpretation nor negotiation, and thus does not cause distortion of market competition. The contribution awards the vendor a 'digital solidarity' label."

No one is so naive as to posit that plugging poor countries into the internet will help them to become rich over night. Likewise, in the context of America's inner city the answer to the challenges facing cities like Cleveland is not to "connect" alone. Access is a necessary but not sufficient condition for social inclusion. OneCleveland's moniker is "connect, enable, and transform." Technological inequalities within our cities and between first and third worlds are, in large measure, symptomatic of more structural inequity. But change happens. In the early 90s when I worked in Africa there was a common notion that Manhattan had more telephones than all of Africa. People waited for 5 years and more for landlines. In social commentary and in street theater, the encrusted bureaucracy of colonial Africa and the anemic power of the modern African state were captured and caricatured in the absurdity of telecommunications, network connectivity, and the computer age. But, again, change happens. According to the World Bank, within less than 10 years more than 50 million mobile phone lines have been activated in Africa. Switched line costs have been cut in half over the past decade as competition and alternatives are introduced. And at least at one level, the so called "gap" or digital divide in the basic ICT arena is quickly closing.

More important, OneCleveland and many other cities in the United States have much to learn from Africa cities and other so-called third world cities in how new technological capabilities have been introduced to address social inclusion. Initiatives like the Digital Solidarity Fund are only meaningful if they are directed to address real human capacity building. As I noted in my recent blog on Queen Noor and bullets, to books, to bytes, I think our best lessons on social inclusion and technology are to be found in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. Among hundreds that I have book marked are:

* New Delhi's "hole in the wall"
* The Cybercare Orphanage project in Kuala Lumpur
* Rio's Committee for Democracy in Information Technology
* Botswana's Basketry and Bushman's Crafts e-commerce project.
* The low-cost solar powered community network in Tsilitwa, Eastern Cape, in South Africa to improve healthcare, education, security and sustainable development.
* Egypt's Community Cultural Archive and Heritage project.

To be clear, like many American cities, Cleveland is a destination city. In our case, we are at or near the epicenter of innovation and value in the areas of health care and research, music, museums and culture and even technological infrastructure. While with a few exceptions like Cool Cleveland, we fail to celebrate our ingenuity, I think our biggest challenge is the internalization of the culture of poverty and the related 'mistake on the lake' syndrome. We need a big, even audacious community-wide project focused on the 21st century that will make a difference. And no, I don't think that gaming or convention centers are either big or audacious undertakings.

Here is one candidate idea that might qualify. Modeled in part after the highly successful Stockholm Challenge, We are the World Cleveland is a proposed international competition for technology and social inclusion. Funded through a proposed 3-way match between the Cleveland philanthropic, corporate, and cultural communities, We are the World Cleveland calls on the cultural mosaic of Greater Cleveland to reach back to 100 cities from outside the United States and bring forward their best ideas and qualified experiences in addressing technology and social inclusion. Organized through our community centers, trade unions, churches, schools, and cultural organizations We are the World will be our own version of the Incredible Race meets the Apprentice. Combining sister cities, family roots, community linkages, eco-tourism, virtual learning communities, and international trade union activity, the resulting program should be promoted by our commercial and public television and other media (both mainstream and alternative). If a singer from Shaker Heights gets coverage in the PlainDealer and all of our broadcasters imagine the huge impact of a global competition with major prices that is based in our own community through civic engagement and interaction on how we can learn from others on how to leverage the new tools of the 21st century to change our own community.

An 18 month project (at least), We are the World Cleveland will offer prizes to our communities who uncover the best examples of social inclusion and technology in key categories like, culture, health, education, environment, e-business, e-government, gender inclusion, economic development, eco-tourism, housing, and workforce preparation.

We Are the World Cleveland will be a multimedia project produced by our community who will learn how to use digital authoring and editing tools in partnership with proposed corporate sponsors to the project. Following a rule book to be developed by an international panel of experts and adjudicated by our own panel of expert judges, Cleveland communities, trade unions, trade associations, Chambers, schools and others will compete to travel the world to document and tell the best stories of technology and social inclusion. Winning segments will be broadcast on television as part of a series that can be syndicated and shared with other markets. Our newspapers and online bloggers can provide indepth, behind the scenes stories behind the stories, filled with human interest subjects.

My first thinking on the We are the World Cleveland is to apply for some seed funding from the Civic Innovation Lab. In conjunction with some start up funds and seeking a project manager, I imagine us gathering support from the key stakeholders which in addition to the downtown addresses will include champions from our major cultural, relgious, work, and community leaders. If you have interest in helping to develop a business plan and project proposal, drop me a note

Posted by lsg8 at 11:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 05, 2005

NewCo: A Proposal for a New University-Centered Technology Company for Oracle PeopleSoft

Back to the Future

Flashback to 1992 or so.

At that time SCT acquired the IA (Information Associates) products from Dun and Bradstreet (read about the history of IA from the biography of John Robinson). After reviewing their acquisition, they told a number of universities that they would no longer support the IDMS product. These were large research universities. That raised quite a ruckus. The way they resolved that was to create a separate software support company focused on support for that product. The company, Pinnacle Software, was privately owned, had rights to the SCT software, hired SCT employees who supported the IDMS product, had an on-going relationship with SCT, and were free to develop other products as long as they didn't compete directly with SCT's product line.

Pinnacle Software did a remarkable job of supporting us and keeping their customer base for long time. They were so successful developing another product line that they were bought out by a Telecomm company. The IDMS product support came back to SCT in 2004.

Oracle and PeopleSoft circa 2005

The acquisition of PeopleSoft by Oracle Corporation provides the higher education community around the world with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. While some will choose to continue to react to these new realities with apocalyptic predictions, the opportunities for the higher education community are numerous. No one knows our needs better than we do. No one has more of an interest in enhancing and extending the useful life of the PeopleSoft applications than we do. The investment in the PeopleSoft suite from the higher education vertical market is significant in terms of the investments higher education institutions make in enterprise software technologies and related services. On the other hand, higher education remains a (very) small market in terms of revenue representing something on the order of 1% of Oracle annual revenues. For those who have worked in the higher education segment over the past two decades, Oracle’s ability to deliver on a consistent and sustained basis within the college and university marketplace has been uneven at best.

The corporate culture of Oracle precedes its acquisition of PeopleSoft. Universities across the country (as well as many other verticals) are 'nervous' and looking for and buying insurance (like 10 year maintenance agreements on existing contracts). This may make sense for some. Like many, I have worked with Oracle for over a decade in higher education. Oracle owns our database environment Case. Above the database layer, Oracle has been less than successful in the application suite within higher education. More recently, my experience with Oracle Corporation has suggested some considerable open mindedness, innovation and forward thinking in working with higher education in marketing, branding, and providing technical and engineering services. Working with Case and a consortium of now more than 50 universities, Oracle's portal framework, and now Collaborative Suite is beginning to penetrate the higher education marketplace and demonstrate value to universities and colleges around the world. The relative success of CampusEAI is due to at least inpart the willingness of Oracle to revisit its strategy for working with and selling into the higher education vertical.

While we continue to look to the PeopleSoft Higher Education Users' Group to work with Oracle to identify broad needs and requirements for the product set, with the support of a number of my colleagues, I am suggesting the exploration of something else. Building on the business case of IA, Pinnacle, and IDMS, there is an opportunity to continue to build on Oracle’s forward thinking collaborative business model, and create a new company to offer services to the higher education marketplace that Oracle supports, certifies, and helps develop. The major differentiator of the NewCo would be to leverage that set of technologies and integration services that while important enough to higher education were deemed as improbable areas for investment of R&D, product development and/or support by Oracle for good corporate reasons. It turns out (see below) there are perhaps a good half dozen areas for initial exploration.

An Initial Exploration

This past Monday, February 28th, Case Western Reserve University invited some 30 universities and colleges to participate in an opening discussion around the core business opportunity outlined above. The participating universities and colleges included private, public, two year and four year institutions from across the United States. The 5 hour conference explored the efficacy of both the business proposition as well as technology drivers like grids and advanced network infrastructure. The outcome of the dialogue is summarized below.

Common Goals

We desire to keep moving the PeopleSoft application forward. We have a common interest in extending the value and the opportunity to leverage our PeopleSoft investments. We continue to have interest in supporting our institutions by driving towards cost savings and cost reduction in our ERP applications. However, most felt that it was prudent to take a defensive posture to reduce risk. While some viewed risk mitigation as the end state, others identified an going interest in the exploration of business opportunities of NewCo.

We have also maintained an open dialogue on NewCo with PeopleSoft veterans, Oracle executive leadership, integrators like IBM, Cedar Group, and infrastructure players like Sun Microsystems. We continue to have expressions of interest from others who may, or may not, see themselves as possible investors.

Eight Core Ideas and Business Propositions

(1) OpenTools for PeopleSoft A community-source orientation to key tools to allow the community to advance and sustain the application forward as Oracle looks forward to fusion and new generation of the application suite and its extension into new areas.

(2) Decision Support Business Intelligence Who better than the University community to better understand the inner workings of our organizational needs. Neither Oracle or PeopleSoft have a stellar track record. It is possible that Oracle may not wish to invest heavily in this area because of the detailed requirements for functional knowledge that is limited to the Higher Education vertical. We definitely need additional investments in the area of decision support and business intelligence for our environment. This may be an opportunity.

(3) Customer Relationship Management . While PeopleSoft and Oracle have "products" in this space, this may be an opportunity as there is value for both our student and our faculty to have a life cycle management tool set to build better customer care and understanding as to needs. It is possible that Oracle may see this as an opportunity for collaboration and partnership in our specific marketplace.

(4) Shared Services where it makes sense. While some public university systems already provide hosted solutions (either outsourced or system sourced), some participants felt that there might be a business and service opportunities not only to provide more robust infrastructure but also an exploration of possible cost containment or savings. We took as an action item to complete an environment scan on this item.

(5) Database Instances (other than Oracle). Perhaps 1/3rd or more of the Universities who use PeopleSoft are using other database systems. It is possible that for both sequel server and db2 server communities may find value in either a business or cooperative effort. To be further explored.

(6) Repository of XML Web Services for Administrative Systems (Accelerators) for re-discovery of business processes. The value of a repository of web services is significant. The value has been validated by the work of CampusEAI and others. As Oracle continues to embrace a standards-based technical architecture that leads to "componentization" (chunks of code that can be used discretely or as part of a bigger eco-system), the higher education community might be very very well served by a formal business offering (or alternatively a more informal cooperative offering) in reusable chunks of code that can be repurposed in differently settings. However, the REAL value of this technical architecture is that makes more transparent the need to revisit or re-discover business processes on our universities. This "process mapping" and "business re-engineering" may actually be a valuable offering in the Higher Education market space that would require domain expertise that Oracle may (or may not) be interested in partnering.

(7) Global Support Center For anyone who has used the existing PeopleSoft Support Center there is a significant probability that the call center (and its personnel) is unlikely to be delivering support in an education-sensitive environment. The call center (by definition) is a generic and commerical user centric enterprise. There is some suggestion that a higher education global support center might have value in partnership with Oracle as a way of building compentency not only in the PeopleSoft suite, but potentially in many of the other current or future offerings for the higher education marketplace. This amounts to an Oracle certified, higher education centric global support call center and solutions initiative.

(8) Student System Data Warehouse . There is no product today in this space. It is critical to develop a data warehouse and reporting infrastructure. Perhaps Oracle will commit to this area. If it chooses not to, this might be a viable business venture for the university consortium to develop as a business offering.


We have begun to outline next steps in creating some form of business partnership through various forms of equity investment. We are also validating some of our assumptions as outlined above. This is an open invitation by those interested in exploring the creation of a NewCo on the basis of these (and/or other core value propositions) are welcome to contact me at Lev Gonick

Posted by lsg8 at 04:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2005

OneCleveland: From Digital Campus to Connected City

This week, Educause Quarterly published a feature-length treatment of the OneCleveland Initiative and the role of Case Western Reserve University. Priya Junnar and I penned the story. Educause is an international nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. Here's an excerpt with a link to the feature article.

A new urban landscape characterizes cities around the globe, eclipsing the smokestacks of the 19th century and skyscrapers of the 20th century, yet the topography of the 21st century digital cityscape is almost invisible. Once the realm of dreams and science fiction, multi-textured layers of digital infrastructure and technology-enabled services have converged into tangible realities that are transforming the way in which people define community, work, education, and social experiences. Present mostly in academic settings, this new digital landscape—created with fiber-optic technology and broadband wireless—opens up rich possibilities for collaboration and mutually beneficial projects between the 21st-century campus and the digital city.

In sharp contrast to the limits of interaction imposed by geography, architecture, and physical distances characteristic of cities and universities in the past, the digital infrastructure of the new millennium can redefine the city’s ecosystem as one intimately connected to—and interdependent with—with the university’s. This paradigm shift morphs the traditional dichotomy between town and gown into a collaboration that can promote regional development, economic growth, and public welfare.

Such a shift is unfolding in Cleveland, Ohio, where Case Western Reserve University (Case) is a founding member of OneCleveland, a nonprofit entity created to provide gigabit connectivity to Cleveland’s nonprofit institutions and pave the way for a growing metropolitan provision of widespread and free regional Wi-Fi access.

To read the article, click here.

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