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September 07, 2007

Encoded in Cleveland

This piece appeared in today's Chronicle of Higher Education

Encoded in Cleveland


Case Western Reserve University made orientation a bit more interesting this summer by sending new students on a scavenger hunt for 2-D codes, a high-tech variation of the familiar bar code.

At first glance each code resembles a black-and-white crossword puzzle with no clues, taped to a wall. Then a click of a cellphone camera reveals a hidden message: a Web site, music, perhaps a video.

The 2-D codes can be easily created and printed by practically anyone with a computer and deciphered by virtually any cellphone with the proper software. When the square code is photographed, it directs the phone to content on the Web.

2-D is already popular in Asia, where the codes appear on billboards, in television ads, and in magazines.

The phones, lent by Sprint Nextel, were "a new way to highlight the tech-heavy program" at the university, says Kate J. Police, an assistant director in the orientation office.

Groups of new students and their orientation leaders raced to locate and take pictures of 21 codes around the campus.

"I tried to make the pictures humorous," says Andrew Boron, a senior who created the codes for the hunt. Snap a picture of the code for the gym, and you're rewarded with a photo of a weight-lifting hamster. At the financial-aid office, the code plays Pink Floyd's "Money" — perhaps appropriate for Case, where the annual tuition and fees of more than $32,000 place it among the pricier institutions in the country.

Lev Gonick
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH

September 07, 2007

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September 03, 2007

Web 2.0 and the Challenge of Leadership

(Standard disclaimer: The views below are mine, and mine alone, and do not reflect the views of Case Western Reserve University, Educause, or any of the other organizations or agencies mentioned below).

Nearly two years ago, I authored a short thought piece on new models and opportunities for pursuing a new form of leadership style I coined 'open source leadership.' More recently, I penned a challenge in response to the headline-grabbing critique leveled by Walt Mosberg lambasting traditional CIO leadership in universities. This week, a column in Educause Review will be published (vol. 42, no. 5 (September/October 2007): 80
Open-Source IT Leadership for Web 2.0) which further outlines the imperative for changes in University leadership. Given the readership and audience of Educause Review, the message is geared to the higher education technology leadership community. Indeed, a special section of the forthcoming issue (November/December 2007) privileges the voices of more than a dozen CIOs from across the landscape who take on the challenge of the clarion call for new roles and leadership styles on the University campus. It's an excellent collection and range of views that I hope will spark some discussion well beyond the relatively small group of CIOs in the higher education world.

Tapscott and William's best selling book Wikinomics is a must read targeting the impact of web 2.0 technologies on business and the role of leadership in running commercial enterprises (from SMB to large global corporations). More recently, Anthony Williams has begun to share a framework for thinking about Government 2.0. As I have corresponded with former students recently (thanks Adam), the imperative for re-thinking and re-imagining the role of government, public services, and the entire democratic project is timely and much more than 'just' an academic exercise. The challenges and opportunities can not be limited to brain storming on how government can leverage web 2.0 technologies. Inextricably linked to the service line conversation should be (must be?) an exploration on the relationship between the powerful forces of pro-sumer and massive collaboration associated with web 2.0 and the imperative for new leadership and leadership styles. The same set of challenges now confront the University community.

Within the interstices of traditional University organizational behavior, some (limited) new spaces have opened up for innovation, experimentation, and new forms of collaboration that cross some of the traditional silos. Michael Roth from Wesleyan and a dozen other University President's have embraced the blogosphere as a means of opening interactive lines of communication with multiple constituencies of alumni, parents, students, faculty, and staff. Provosts and Deans have begun to podcast messages to their constituencies to provoke, engage, and connect in a much less controlled way than the tradition of the university. Strategic planning at universities is always concerned with inclusivity, process, and preserving privilege for university leadership to find voice and to offer direction. Wikis are now beginning to be used as a way of inviting 1000s of voices from across the campus to help build strategic direction as well as assist in the copy editing. Some libraries are encouraging researchers, students, along with library faculty specialists to tag subject matter to help direct ongoing bibliographic searches and help re-invent library sciences. There are many many more examples of these experimental crevices that begin to suggest new ways of delivering and engaging in the process of learning, research, and service. Less evident, thus far, is a theory of leadership that helps to fully articulate the qualities, skills, and experiences that position our leaders for greater degrees of success in the new organizational eco-system.

One of the many leadership learning opportunities here at Case Western Reserve University is the opportunity to work with of our colleagues David Cooperrider designer of the Appreciate Inquiry approach to organizational development and Richard Boyatzis and Emotional Intelligence and leadership competencies. It would be very interesting to ask David and/or Richard (and many others with experience and insight) to reflect directly on the challenges of university leadership in a web 2.0 world.

Lev Gonick
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH
September 3, 2007

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September 01, 2007

Muni-Wireless is Dead! Long Live Community-Based Portfolios of Rich Application Wireless Services

(The following blog (as always) reflect my personal views and may not reflect the views or position of Case Western Reserve University or OneCommunity.Org)

It was only a matter of time.

Chicago canceled its city hall issued muni-wi-fi project.

San Francisco’s deal with Earthlink championed by Mayor Gavin Newsom is officially dead.

Houston’s city hall project is on the rocks.

Milwaukee’s project is in the emergency room.

Toledo’s city hall debacle with wi-fi has been well documented.

The list goes on. Of course, there are some good news stories. Philadelphia’s project has caught flight and its first mover status will probably give the city of brotherly love more time to get the effort right sized. Google’s philanthropy has made a difference in the Silicon Valley metropolitan area.

For more than three years I have attempted to articulate how and why City-hall based (or legislatively directed) wi-fi deployments face nearly insurmountable sets of challenges. Let’s start with the reality that there is no sustainable business case. To be sure, there is a broad public policy imperative to provide capacity to the public to be able to access the Internet. There are profound and compelling services and priorities that demand that the public be able to access services in their community centers, health care and legal aid clinics, neighborhood churches, coffee shops, public parks, schools, and libraries. But the failure and near certain demise of the first wave of city-hall driven muni-wireless projects can’t come too soon.

The DNA of the Internet is distributed. Centralized power, hierarchies, and authority, all qualities of the 19th and 20th century vision of the role of City Hall are no longer immutable forces in the Internet age. Indeed, the Internet has relatively little respect for centralized authority and the formidable forms of power that followed. The causalities of these new realities include a lot more than the muni-wireless movement which imagined that power to the people could be delivered through the leverage that the City could bring to bear on civil society and the vendor community. Free wireless for all, care of the omnipotent and patronizing largesse of City Hall (or even more audacious simply free wireless for all, because we are City Hall).

To be sure, there are exceptions. First movers like Philadelphia. Corporate largesse like New Orleans and Intel or San Jose and Mountain View with Google are examples. I am never one to under estimate local politics and/or the role of charismatic leadership.

As the first generation of muni-wi-fi’s unbounded enthusiasm comes to an end, it’s time to redouble efforts in order to stay focused on the ever growing need to improve the quality of life and opportunity for American citizens in the 21st century. Access to the Internet today is nothing less than a moral imperative. The portfolio of education, health, human capital development, culture literacy opportunities enabled by the Internet is every bit as important and potentially transformative a public policy arena as the 1944 GI Bill that exposed 7.8 million soldiers (by 1956) black and white alike to the opportunities afforded by higher education. It’s not simply a 21st century equivalent rural electrification plan, although that would be important in and of itself. Today, access to the Internet is a necessary but insufficient condition for 21st century literacy,

The most promising future for wireless services in the public interest can be expected to come from community-based, cross-platform, application-rich portfolios of services that begin with a broad commitment to, recognition of, and support for the self-organizing principles of the Internet in general, and in particular, the new generation of so-called Web 2.0 applications based on user-generated content. To this end, rather than being informed by a model of a municipal power plant lighting up the entire region’s wireless internet needs, I think we should embrace the internet-based model of regenerative power plants, woven into the fabric of the community’s geographically distributed institutions, including, but emphatically not limited to those of a City Hall or a County office. To be clear, City Hall and County engagement represents a critical node in the architecture of a successful metropolitan or regional connected community plan. The resulting multi-nodal architecture reflects a scalable technical solution, deep hooks into the distributed and multi-faceted needs of the community, a business model that makes scale doable (based on a multi-anchor tenant model), and finally a governance model that positions a broad coalition of community-based partners to commit to work together on using this new, 21st century platform to address both short term as well as longer terms needs of and policy priorities of many different communities across the region. Take the aggregate needs and interests of a region’s schools, libraries, museums, health care clinics and research facilities, universities, parks and recreation facilities, non-profits and multi-tiered government agencies and related facilities (from utilities, public safety, welfare, to City Hall). This is a powerful base from which to build technical solutions based on a distributed network model. In the United States, on average, more than 75 percent of all of the population works for or routinely uses the services from among this collection of ‘public agencies’.

From both a technical and business model, sustainable tiered wireless services starts not with an RFP for wireless radios and access points but rather with the fiber optical plant/grid connecting community stakeholders. The community’s asset inventory is not only about light polls and roof access. Cities and counties, along with the community’s key institutions, have fiber assets, tower assets, rights of way, and most important a collective technical engineering knowledge asset that if harnessed provides competitive advantage and the enabling platform for the social engineering that follows. The wireless infrastructure in a muni-wi-fi deployment needs to tie-in into and be backhauled through core wired services. The undergirding of a metropolitan service or regional wireless offering is every bit as an important an architecture and business consideration as debating wireless mesh, WiMax, or next generation WiFi (802.11n). Unfortunately, the early lessons from the first wave of the muni-wireless world has largely ignored this challenge and ignores the opportunity of building out and owning a fiber plant that serves to connect all these public sector organizations. Not only are community-based regional optical networks the key to creating true and meaningfully value, these networks position those communities who invest in the time and resource to architect, build, and operate their own optical networks to be positioned to shape their own destinies in the 21 century. Data services, telephone, video, presence, and mobile services can all be run off of the core community network. Wireless connectivity and the layering of wireless services is simply a tier in the overall network design that extends access and provides people who use the wireless build out for mobile services that are secure, simple to use, and over time, will quickly become digital air. With a multi-anchor strategy enabled through the hundreds of community subscribers to a regional community network, universities, schools, libraries, hospitals, clinics, community centers, and yes, city and county buildings, can extend tiered wireless access through a coordinated technical architecture that mirrors the coordination associated with the wired plant. The services and experiences of a mobile society will become second nature and a basic entitlement that future generations will look back on and ask how earlier generations survived without them.

This multi-anchor strategy for tiered wireless services layered on top of thousands of route miles of community owned fiber characterizes the continuous effort underway in Northeast Ohio through the leadership of OneCommunity (formerly known as OneCleveland) since 2002. A wireless strategy grounded in community needs for health care education, 21st century skills development, economic development, enabling collaboration in the research domain, better coordinated electronic medical record efforts, community center technology centers, exposure to the aesthetic qualities of music, dance, and arts, and more efficient services from our various government service providers continues to roll out not only in Greater Cleveland but active efforts underway in Akron, and growing interest in Youngstown and Mahoning County. The connected community approach of OneCommunity differentiates our approach from the Asian centralized planning model of five year plans directed by government and the European experience of the deliberate use of regulatory instruments to build out national broadband infrastructure (with or without private sector involvement). Our experience in Northeast Ohio presents a uniquely American opportunity (in the absence of any national broadband framework) to weave together a quilt of public-private partnerships to not only build out but to systematically development application portfolios that are replicable and scalable in communities across the region, the state, and broader eco-systems like, for example, the Great Lakes Basin.

OneCommunity’s experience and expertise is not only apparent in its technical architecture to provide ultra broadband connectivity and access to miles and miles of wireless connectivity centered around libraries, schools, universities, community centers, and health care facilities. The growing portfolio of solutions and applications is positively impacting many of our greatest challenges and some of our most important opportunities. Just this week, the Cleveland Clinic, under the leadership of Toby Cosgrove committed another $2m to connect some 700,000 school-aged children in more than 800 schools throughout NEOhio (on top of the 120 or so schools that are already connected in Cleveland through previous investments by the Cleveland Clinic). The goal, to support health, science and math education directly from the Civic Engagement curriculum efforts of the Cleveland Clinic to classrooms throughout the 4 million or so 18 county region of NEOhio. Leaders in the Columbiana County have made multi-million dollars investments with OneCommunity to support local economic development and education efforts leveraging fiber and wireless services. Just this week the Cuyahoga County Commissioners made a $250,000 investment in OneCommunity in support of its work in the area of economic development While there is much much more work to be done in NEOhio, OneCommunity has captured the imagination and the precious cycles of our region’s most forward looking institutional partners whose senior leaders form the governance body of OneCommunity. The Board leads strategic direction along with input from our technical advisory committee (http://www.onecleveland.org/about/about.aspx?id=266). Even after many phases in its evolution, OneCommunity's operating model remains committed to private-public partnership with technical design, build out, support, and operation being performed largely by local and national private sector technology partners working together with OneCommunity’s public sector solutions architects. The solutions architects who form OneCommunity’s core staffing efforts are experts in subject matter domains like health care, education, museums, public broadcasting, research, and economic development.

The OneCommunity model will continue to evolve and mature. Our commitment to cross boundary activities that create synergies among community institutional practioners will continue to be one of our key informing practices. Focusing on a solutions portfolio that attends to the highest community priorities remains another key element in our DNA. The effort at social engineering by bringing often times competing or recalcitrant players into a common effort to meet the broader social good for the community is another aspirational quality to OneCommunity. Finally, OneCommunity will remain committed to creating a new model of engaging private sector entrepreneurs as equal partners with public sector stakeholders in creating a coalition committed to the re-imagining and re-inventing of our communities in the 21st century by leveraging technology to create social and commercial value by attending to the articulated priorities of the community.

Lev Gonick
Case Western Reserve University
OneCommunity Board Member
Cleveland, OH
Labor Day Weekend, 2007

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