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July 05, 2005

OneCleveland: The View From Inside Business

Northeast Ohio's Inside Business published a feature story on OneCleveland written by long time technology evangelist, Dan Hanson.

Dan is one of the handful of writers on the regional scene who has long understood the transformational potential of the OneCleveland concept. If you like what you read, let Dan know.

Issue Date: July 2005 Issue

Speedy Transfer
Intel, IBM and Cisco are revolutionizing the sharing of data in Northeast Ohio.

Dan Hanson

Let's clear up a common misconception. OneCleveland is not a free wireless network covering the city like a connected series of coffeeshop Wi-Fi hotspots.

It's true OneCleveland is a provider of ultra broadband networking services, connecting computers to one another and the Internet at super-fast speeds. But it's who it connects, and what it enables them to do, that makes the service powerful and unique.

In short, it's revolutionizing the way information is shared in Northeast Ohio.

OneCleveland's subscribers consist of public and nonprofit institutions, such as Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Museum of Art, MetroHealth System, the city of Cleveland, and the Cleveland Orchestra, among others.

It's a system that allows partnerships such as the one between the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cuyahoga County Library. Currently four programs are in place that allow both institutions to utilize one another's resources and they are working on a fifth program that will provide digital art exhibits to library patrons. This will enable virtual field trips to the museum and real-time interactive presentations. A nod from the federal government in the form of a $500,000 grant over two years to help fund such programs shows the importance of this partnership to the community and its continuing education.

MetroHealth System already is using the network to share massive data files with researchers at Case. It allows, for example, a specialist to instantaneously view an MRI image or other medical scan over the network. The specialist will be able to share his or her expertise almost as if he or she were on site holding up the X-ray. Before OneCleveland existed, the process to transfer such large files of data would have taken hours.

Constant developments, including deals with big-time tech companies IBM, Cisco and Intel, and the expansion of the network into additional counties, are keeping the OneCleveland network in the public eye and sparking interest from cities around the world.

Northeast Ohio is on a path to becoming a cutting-edge digital Mecca, with the potential to attract new businesses and enhance the region as a viable place to live and work.

So what's in it for you?

If you provide IT-related products or services, you will have exposure to cutting-edge people, companies and technologies.

Even if you aren't in the tech world, the opportunities for your company to piggyback on the successes of the OneCleveland network are exciting. As new businesses sprout, they will require a myriad of products and services, from construction and real estate to legal, accounting, medical and other services, to get started. Savvy business people will find ways to include their products and services as projects emerge.

"There are opportunities for the core businesses of the region, such as manufacturing -- particularly in the devices arena -- to test and model their solutions with subscribers," says Lev Gonick, the chief information officer of Case Western Reserve University and chairman of OneCleveland.

Gonick arrived in Cleveland in 2001 from California State University, Monterey Bay, where he served as chief technical officer. He had been recruited by Case to bring his expertise to Northeast Ohio. During the recruiting process, he learned of the vast fiber optic network running beneath the streets of Greater Cleveland. Part of the network was installed in the early Ô90s by Case to be used as an intranet for its students. At the same time, companies such as Philadelphia-based City Signal Communications were investing in fiber optic networks for private gain.

In 2002, Gonick instigated discussions between Case, Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland State University, the city of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, ideastream (WVIZ and WCPN), the Cuyahoga County Public Library, and the Northeast Ohio Regional Technology Coalition (NorTech).

He envisioned a network to connect public organizations as a way of sharing information and spurring economic development. In 2003, OneCleveland was officially established and subscribers came online one by one. There are more than a dozen current subscribers, with more added regularly.

Subscribers get two immediate ben-efits. First, OneCleveland connects subscribers to the Internet. Second, it offers subscribers the option of connecting to one another at incredible speeds at no additional cost, thus making collaboration easy.

Other cities have available fiber networks (which are much faster than the copper-based T1 Internet lines) but they are under-utilized. Moreover, the shared regional infrastructure and community collaboration that exists in Cleveland is not available elsewhere, says Scot Rourke, OneCleveland's president.

That is where the real opportunities arise. Because of the ultra broadband network and collaborative environment, companies are extremely interested in coming to town to develop and test their products.

"At least once a week we receive a serious inquiry from a company interested in providing services to the subscribers," Gonick says. "For a tech entrepreneur, this is a very exciting sandbox to play in."

After two years of conversations between OneCleveland and IBM, big projects have started to pick up speed.

At the end of May, IBM announced its commitment to partner with fellow tech giants Cisco and Intel, and OneCleveland, to help create a giant computer grid system in Northeast Ohio -- the first of its kind in the world.

"We saw Cleveland as the test market for this just because of the infrastructure that was set up," says Scott Cook, a spokesperson for IBM. "They have done a lot of the work in getting these organizations to the table and that is probably the biggest step in getting these things to work."

In grid computing, multiple computers have the ability to feed off of each other's power, forming a sort of supercomputer. What's even more exciting is that these linked computers can share databases.

The idea is that Cleveland will dem-onstrate grid computing's potential to jumpstart economic development. This will be tested first in the health care industry.

Several health care systems in Cleveland and Akron are coming on board as part of the test. The hope is that hospital systems in the region will be able to share medical records with one another. So if a patient happens to go to two different hospitals, both can access that patient's most up-to-date medical history.

Additionally, OneCleveland, Intel and the city of Cleveland are discussing plans to create an application for the governmental sector. The hope is that public departments around the region will be able to access, file, and share data, making processes more efficient.

Another advantage Cleveland has over other cities scrambling to catch up is content.

"We already have incredible content," Rourke says. "The network is only as good as what they do with it."

Institutions such as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Orchestra, NASA, and others all have world-class content for distance learning and other quality of life services.

How long will our advantage last?

"That is the critical question," says Gonick. "No more than one year to 18 months if we do nothing. But the goal is to not only continue but to accelerate the pace."

The community benefits of One-Cleveland are obvious. Local nonprofit and government institutions will be able to provide new and better services to an expanded audience. The possible benefits of the collaborations between subscribers are limitless.

And economic benefits will flourish as a result of the community benefits.

Cleveland's reputation will be enhanced, and as a result, the region will attract talented people -- not to mention companies and their deep pockets.

Community leaders and entrepreneurs have begun to believe this is no longer in the realm of science fiction. OneCleveland is morphing outside the region. Already, plans are in place to extend the network outside of Cuyahoga County. In June, the GAR Foundation in Akron awarded OneCleveland a $100,000 grant to expand the network into Summit County, rendering the organization's moniker in-accurate. This summer the nonprofit will unveil a new name that won't be specific to any one municipality. (As of press time, a name had yet to be chosen.) Instead, it will focus on a new era of business in Northeast Ohio.

"The heavy lifting is done," Rourke says. "We've built a stage for provocative, innovative things and are bringing in wicked smart people from all over the world. It's ready to explode. The challenge is that we have to embrace it."

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July 03, 2005

Live 8, Netizenship and the Role of Technology in Africa

It took less than 60 days to produce Live 8, the world-wide new media rock concert and music experience extravaganza dedicated to making poverty history. Half a billion people around the world used SMS or other text-messaging services to send a message to the leaders of the advanced industrial world. Over a 1000 bloggers issued over 10,000 blog postings issued play by play color commentary and reflection on the event.

For all the ney sayers, the event was a technological marvel. Live streams from 10 concert venues around the world with only minor technical glitches. Great photos, exchanges, and a chance to explore the theme of poverty and its relationship to technology, music, and power.

Bravo to the producers (Bono, Richard Curtis, Sir Bob Geldof, Harvey Goldsmith, John Kennedy, Midge Ure), performers, and the armies of volunteers who contributed to the production. Kudos to the handful of corporations like AOL, BBC, and Nokia who understood the vision and made Live 8 possible.

In 2015 (10 years hence)a global music festival should be planned that originates from Ethiopia, Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. These 18 nations are among the poorest (and debt-ridden)in the world. They are also among the least wired countries in the world and their citizens among the most disenfranchised netizens in the world.

We will know that the actions of our political leaders, cultural icons, and mass moblizations will have been valuable when our celebrations originate in the heart of the so-called third world and more important when there is enough 21st century infrastructure to support a global broadcast and webcast in which the so-called first world can both view and learn something about these "other" countries through technology-enabled experiences produced by the netizens of countries like Ethiopia.

Getting from here to there is not a matter of wishful thinking and a couple of signatures. Much work lies ahead, but the goal should be to plan a festival of hope and celebration. About six months ago, I had the opportunity to listen to and work with the Minister of Education from the Republic of Ethiopia, the Honorable Gennet Zewdie. Outlined below is a high level proposal for developing and strengthening Ethiopian netizenship and humand development capacity through a project called the E-THIOPIA LEARNING AND TECHNOLOGY EXCHANGE. This is one very small example of the kind of concrete work that can contribute to the capacity building required to develop human talent and hope to make the 2015 festival a reality.

Context: As part of the 2004 Nobel Week, an international symposium on innovation in the public sector was held in Stockholm, Sweden, December 7-11, 2004. More than 200 thought leaders from around the world gathered at the invitation of Cisco Systems’ Internet Business Solutions Group. During the proceedings, and following a compelling presentation by the Ethiopian Minister of Education, a groundswell of support developed among the participants that there was an international moral imperative to mobilize the global technology community and engage with concrete practices to address the profound and growing human devastation associated with poverty in Africa as reported in the 2005 UNICEF report, “Childhood Under Threat”(www.unicef.org/sowc05/english/index.html).

Opportunity Statement: It is the right of every child to be a “netizen”. Netizenship is the human right of accessing, experiencing, engaging, interacting, and understanding the rights and responsibility associated with the global network of connected communities. Together, we will invest our time and talent to support an authenticate form of Ethiopian netizenship providing both a learning network and an infrastructure for the exchange of goods, services, and ideas.

Principles: To the extent possible, the E-THIOPIA LTE should reflect the priorities identified by its netizens. Moreover, the E-THIOPIA LTE should be premised on reciprocity within the exchange and not upon an imposition of technological imperialism or other forms of domination. Building human capacity is THE primary goal of the E-THIOPIA LTE. Preserving the fragile eco-system and engendering a commitment to sustainable growth is a high priority.

Starting point: The realities of the challenge in terms of human capacity building challenges in Ethiopia can not be minimized. According to UNICEF, 82% of the population survives on less than $1 USD/day. About 72 per cent of school-age children have no access to formal education. About 75 per cent of the population suffers from some form of communicable disease. A demographic and Health Survey conducted in 2000 found that 55 per cent of Ethiopian children under the age of five are stunted due to malnutrition. As dire as the situation among the general school-aged population, the situation of young women is significantly more challenging than for young men.

Goals: The E-THIOPIA LTE seeks to create a model to contribute to doubling the GNP/capita from $90 to $180 per capita by 2020. Caloric intake, another goal, will meet the minimum requirement of 1884 calories/day/person (currently at less than 1600) by 2015. Completion rates for primary education will double and secondary schooling will triple. More than 50,000 high school-aged persons will complete certification from E-THIOPIA-LTE by 2010. At least 20,000 young women will complete certification from E-THIOPIA-LTE. The initiative will help to generate 500 small technology companies by the year 2015.

Technical Prerequisites: Phase 1 of the E-THIOPIA LTE scheduled for completion by December 2005 (marked by the next Global Summit on Public Sector Innovation in Stockholm) will provide the following key technology outcomes. 12,000 network ready computers. Cisco will establish 15 Cisco Academies by the end of 2005. The Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Telecommunications and Public Works, and Cisco will arrange to support two-way broadband connectivity to the Academies. Between the Ministers and USAID and other agencies the identified 12,000 computers will need to be shipped to Ethiopia.

Establishing Community Priorities: In conjunction with Phase 1 above, a series of “deep dive” town hall activities should be organized in order to design an authenticate set of community-based priorities. Among other things, the “deep dive” sessions would help to reveal the highest priorities for the E-THIOPIA LTE. We propose a series of possible use scenarios to establish priorities in possible areas like (1) local economic development opportunities for women, (2) sustainable, micro gardening and agri-businesses, (3) community conflict resolution, (3) technology skills set development, (4) public health care and technology, (5) aids prevention, (6) agricultural extension education (7) environmental learning and training. (8) producer to consumer direct coffee exporting. This process should begin in the September 2005 timeframe.

Developing the Exchange: The E-THIOPIA LTE is an eco-system informed by community priorities, enabled by state of the art technology infrastructure, and envisioned to be a “platform” for innovation and transformation across the country. Models for governance, application development strategies, and investment and business case development are all important milestones in the development of the Exchange. The foundation of the Exchange is made possible by investments of time, talent, engineering support, and education and pedagogy by Cisco Systems and the founding partners of the Exchange. This process will be formally known as phase 2 of the Exchange and should be initiated by October 2005.

Developing Human Capacity: The explicit goal of the E-THIOPIA Learning and Technology Exchange is to create measurable advances in developing human capacity building in Ethiopia. E-THIOPIA is conceived of as a model that is scalable and replicable elsewhere around the world.

Next Steps: All Phase 1 requirements must be completed within the next 12 months. By December 2005 letters of commitment, a call for a technology vendor investment round, and expressions of intent from agencies, universities, and governments should be gathered. Planning for the use cases for the “deep dive” sessions should be drafted and discussed at the proposed Ethiopia Summit. The outcome of that Summit should also include scope of work documents, and draft language for governance, application development and business case language that would be refined and then launched in early 2006. Reporting back to the Public Sector Summit in Stockholm should be planned for December 2005.

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