I had the real pleasure of attending a presentation today by Lev Gonick, the CIO of Case Western Reserve University, who spent about an hour talking about the OneCleveland project that he’s been involved in for the past five years. In a nutshell, OneCleveland is all about aggregating unused broadband that’s already in existence and repurposing it for the community good. It’s up and running, and it’s mission is being fulfilled:
Our mission is to Connect, Enable and Transform our community.
Connect our next-generation ultra broadband network to our schools, universities, researchers, healthcare providers, government agencies, social services, arts and cultural institutions and other nonprofits.
Enable our subscribers to deploy new ideas, services, innovations, collaborations, products, applications, and tools.
Transform how we deliver services to our community; our institutions collaborate; how we share services to reduce costs and increase quality; and how we leverage community assets to drive economic development.
He showed excerpts of high def video of a live heart surgery at a Cleveland hospital being shown to a class of AP Biology students who were asking questions of the doctors as they performed their work. And he had a video of dancers in Los Angeles who were being accompanied live by dancers in Cleveland on the same stage via digital projection, a choreography that was written specifically for the technology. It was amazing stuff, and it wasn’t hard to feel in awe of what we can already do when we have the connection.
The good news is that Cleveland, one of the poorest cities in America, is giving us a model for broadband build-out that can be replicated. And, according to Gonick now that they have the “terrestrial” infrastructure built, they are turning to putting wireless access points throughout the region. Right now, they are looking at affordable, thin client computers for those that don’t have them since all that’s really required is the connection, and a variety of other devices. It’s a hopeful vision.
At this same presentation was someone working closely with the Philadelphia wireless project, and while it is forging ahead, it’s not going as smoothly. This person made the point that in Philly, the demographics suggest that one out of every three people you pass have never been on the Internet much less have regular access. After seeing the potential of what’s happening in Cleveland, that statistic was even more powerfully depressing.
Gonick, who latest blog post is titled “The End of High School and the Future of American Education: Reframing the Debate in 2006” (a pretty amazing read in itself…) also talked about how students at Case just expect access. It’s “digital air” to them. Won’t it be something when we can deliver that to all of our kids. OneCleveland is building one model of how to do it.