When Google chose Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO for their 1 gigabit fiber network, us Kansas Citians were pretty excited. We knew that Google Fiber held a lot of potential for our region to be at the forefront of developing new technologies and to grow as a tech hub...but we weren’t quite sure how to make that happen.
So in September of last year, Mayors Sly James and Joe Reardon from each city appointed a Mayors' Bistate Innovation Team (MBIT), charged with developing a Playbook of creative ways that the community can use Google Fiber to spark economic development, advance opportunities and improve daily life in Kansas City.
As co-chairs of MBIT, we had the amazing opportunity (along with the rest of our team) to meet with community members from many different sectors including neighborhoods, schools, libraries, hospitals, health providers, arts, businesses, and more to learn about what Fiber means to them, and what impact they imagine it might have. In addition to doing research for the Playbook, our team also investigated the broader issues of innovation and digital inclusion in Kansas City.
What we found was a community alive with dreams and visions for a better Kansas City, enriched by broad access to high-speed Internet connectivity and trained to take advantage of all it can offer. In fact, we got so much amazing feedback that we’ll be releasing several iterations of the Playbook, in order to collect and incorporate even more public feedback. We’ve opened an online forum where anyone can submit their ideas, and we invite you to contribute your thoughts.
But for now, our preliminary recommendations in the Playbook highlight the areas in our community where we think Google Fiber can make a real difference. Some of these recommendations include:
Education: Outfit a handful of classrooms for demonstration projects that fully integrate high-speed fiber technology into daily lessons, equipping our students with the most innovative educational resources.
Telehealth Pilots: Work with several hospitals and clinics to provide the technology to perform diagnostic services to people at home and at work, potentially increasing the quality of care for some patients while simultaneously reducing ER wait times and hospital readmissions.
Testbeds for entrepreneurs: Build a technology incubator that invites entrepreneurs to gather in a fiber-rich environment and work together to enhance their current businesses and develop new apps.
Global Roundtables: Conduct a series of global telepresence roundtables to establish Kansas City as an emerging global leader in the new digital economy and accelerate economic development and innovation.
Enhance Convention Center technology: Make our convention center one of the most tech-friendly gathering places in the country.
Develop a robust IT workforce: Work with and train Kansas Citians to become leading IT professionals throughout the US and the world.
We’re excited about the potential of these ideas—and the many more that we outline in our beta Playbook. But we’re also very aware that high-speed fiber cannot reach its full potential if large segments of our community are excluded from its benefits. Digital inclusion will be a huge pillar of our work on Google Fiber in the community. We hope to work with Google and other community organizations to make broadband access widely available in Kansas City, and to develop computer literacy training so that all Kansas Citians can have access to public services and social, financial, cultural, and informational resources.
To shepherd all of these elements from ideas to action, we’re recommending the creation of a new region-wide Digital Leadership Network. While many organizations will lead or partner on specific initiatives, we will look to the Digital Leadership Network as a new, united effort to ensure implementation of projects in the Playbook and to bring vision, strategy and coordination to the region’s broadband efforts over time.
High-speed fiber, by itself, is no guarantee of leadership in innovation or economic development. These opportunities will come only through work, initiative, and community support, hopefully guided by Playbook recommendations from MBIT and from the community.