January 23, 2013 By Louis Zacharilla
Honolulu, Hawaii (USA) – On Monday morning, the local Hawaiian newspaper reported that the article with the most hits on its website over the last 24 hours was the story about Manti T’eo, a native son and a star football player at far-away Notre Dame University, a cold place situated on what Hawaiians call “the mainland.” The young man had evidently been hoaxed. He had been having an affair with a fake girlfriend on the Internet for three years. The hoax went so far as to report her death, which generated national sympathy for him. As a graduate of the same college as Manti, I don’t want to dwell on the story, but in a state that many describe as being “30 years behind” in terms of access and development of the type Intelligent Communities take for granted, one wonders if the locals might not want to bypass the 21st century altogether for a good reason.
Of course, they do not. They simply want to ensure that one of the world’s most alluring, diverse and remarkable spots in the known universe not lose what has been essential to it since volcanoes erupted and shaped this great jewel of the American union. My idea of “surfing” and theirs need to find a happy medium. (When I am here I lean toward theirs BTW…)
This challenge was central to a long and delightful discussion I had with the state’s CIO, Sanjeev Bhagowalia. He has been brought over from a string of high profile jobs in Washington, DC, where he served another local resident and graduate of Punahou High School, Barack Obama, as a federal CIO. Earlier in the day his new boss, Hawaii’s Governor Abercrombie, had started his annual address to the state saying: “Politics at its best is about community.” It was made clear to me that community and tribalism are central to understanding Hawaii’s genius and also its resistance to broadband. The governor has been pushing, with very limited success, to transform the islands into something at least approximating a Intelligent Community. Honolulu has submitted several nominations to ICF, but has never come close to the Smart21 list. The governor and the CIO want that to change. That state is upgrading its information technology systems and spending US$20 million over the next 24 months to encourage innovation. But will this be the secret sauce? The trigger for transformation? Maybe and maybe not.
Sanjeev and his team know that somehow, some way, the “Aloha” philosophy, which is central to culture and its economic attitudes, must find its expression in a complex mix of broadband access, capacity building, collaboration and cultural “mining.” There will be no Silicon Valley here. Yet Hawaii is designed to be the “spear” of the new American approach to Asia and its vast opportunities. What will that mean? More technology for the American naval fleet? Already 1 out of every 10 people in Hawaii is a military veteran. (The rest appear to sunburned “mainlanders.” Tourists. Or so it seems.) Hawaii has a brain drain. No urban planning. No beta test communities, except a brief experiment with 100 gbs in one place, which ended. It is challenged, but like most places, it is developing (slowly) the will to transform and seize its destiny. We will see.
A few hours before I met with Sanjeev, I had a chance to meet Manti T’eo’s great-aunt. She is the most lovely, charming woman imaginable. She cannot understand how anyone could have a relationship “online.” Rather than break the news to her that Facebook has allowed many people to befriend perfect strangers (trust me, she knows this because she’s very wise) I asked her about her community. It is a closeknit clan on Maui. Samoans who look out for each other, especially in a crisis. They rally around their own, which is an instinct that in my view is very healthy. Yet, as Sanjeev and his team reflect, it is also the challenge to bringing everyone together to summon the great gift of “Aloha” for the generations ahead.
About the Intelligent Community Forum
The Intelligent Community Forum is a think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community. Whether in industrialized or developing nations, communities are challenged to create prosperity, stability and cultural meaning in a world where jobs, investment and knowledge increasingly depend on advances in communications. For the 21st Century community, connectivity is a double-edge sword: threatening established ways of life on the one hand, and offering powerful new tools to build prosperous, inclusive and sustainable economies on the other. ICF seeks to share the best practices of the world's Intelligent Communities in adapting to the demands of the Broadband Economy, in order to help communities everywhere find sustainable renewal and growth. More information can be found at www.intelligentcommunity.org.
Robert Bell is co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, where he heads its research and content development activities. He is the author of ICF's pioneering study, Benchmarking the Intelligent Community, the annual Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year white papers and other research reports issued by the Forum, and of Broadband Economies: Creating the Community of the 21st Century. Mr. Bell has also authored articles in The Municipal Journal of Telecommunications Policy, IEDC Journal, Telecommunications, Asia-Pacific Satellite and Asian Communications; and has appeared in segments of ABC World News and The Discovery Channel. A frequent keynote speaker and moderator at municipal and telecom industry events, he has also led economic development missions and study tours to cities in Asia and the US.
ICF co-founder John G. Jung originated the Intelligent Community concept and continues to serve as the Forum's leading visionary. Formerly President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance and Calgary Economic Development Authority, he is a registered professional urban planner, urban designer and economic developer. He leads regular international business missions to US, European, Asian, Indian and Australian cities, and originated the ICF Immersion Lab program. John is a regular speaker at universities and conferences and serves as an advisor to regional and national leaders on Intelligent Community development. The author of numerous articles in planning and economic development journals, he has received global and Toronto-based awards for his work in collaboration and strategic development and sits on numerous task forces and international advisory boards.
ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla is the creator and presenter of the annual Smart21, Top Seven and Intelligent Community Awards and oversees ICF's media communications and development programs. He is a frequent keynote and motivational speaker and panelist, addressing audiences of tech, academic and community leaders around the world, and writes extensively for publications including American City & County, Continental Airline's in-flight magazine and Municipal World. His frequent appearances in the electronic media have included both television and radio in South Korea, China and Canada. He has served as an adjunct professor at Fordham University in New York and is a Guest Lecturer at Polytechnic University's Distinguished Speaker Series. He holds a Masters Degree from the University of Notre Dame.