By Bobby Burch
So you’ve got gigabit-fast — roughly 1,000 megabits-per-second — internet speeds. Now what?
That’s a question the Kansas City-hosted Gigabit City Summit will help communities from across the U.S. answer. The summit— organized by KC Digital Drive and set for May 16 through 18 — is back for round two thanks to popular demand after its inaugural event last year.
The three-day event will explore such topics as smart city infrastructure, digital inclusion, civic technology and how communities can tap gigabit internet to do good. The conference is expecting 300 attendees, which will be comprised of city officials, educators, techies and economic developers. Check out the summit’s agenda here.
Startland News spoke with KC Digital Drive managing director Aaron Deacon to find out what made the first summit such a huge success and how it plans to keep the momentum going.
On the summit’s origins …
The Gigabit City Summit is really a conference about how we translate emerging tech applications and infrastructure into the kind of impact we want to see in the communities and cities we live in.
We started with the question of “how should the city take advantage of Google Fiber?” but realized that the capacity to answer and act upon that question is much broader than one technology or corporate partner. As other cities began to build out gigabit fiber, they had the same realization, and we think Kansas City is a great place to host a conversation among those cities.
On why the summit is back again …
We got really good feedback from last year’s event, and a lot of questions about the next one…which is really why we’re doing it again. It certainly wasn’t a given that there would be a repeat.
We’ve seen it affect the way some cities prepare for their future. Fort Collins, CO, for example, showed up last year and put out a fiber request-for-proposal shortly afterward that seemed to me to reflect a lot of the approaches we talked about (at the summit). … Carbondale, IL is another community that put together a digital playbook that grew out of last year’s event.
On how the summit developed its focus …
I’ve spent a lot of time going to conferences that talk about how to get fiber, and they do a great job. But the “what do you do with it?” question was a little bit of a sidebar. We knew when we started this that smart city infrastructure and applications would be one of the answers, so we’ve pointed in that direction from the beginning.
On the cannot-miss-events …
I’m really excited about the maker conversation on Monday afternoon. Peter Hirshberg is a great speaker and his work on Maker Cities with Kauffman Foundation and the White House has been really fun to watch.
Maybe a little under the radar, but I think the City+University Collaboration track is pretty compelling. Not a lot of people here have necessarily been tracking the emerging partnerships that help translate academic research into practical city outcomes, but UMKC has been a real leader in this area … it’s a pretty cool space right now.
On how the summit helps entrepreneurs and the tech community …
I think it’s important for people here to realize how many people look to Kansas City for answers. And it’s not because we have all the answers, but we do have a lot of experience asking the questions and thinking about the issues. Having an engaged entrepreneurial and tech community is a critical piece of that.
The things that cities want to accomplish, the impact we want to see as a result of technology — it needs to have a business model of some kind to support and sustain it. That’s where the tech community provides — and hopefully receives — tremendous value.
On how smart cities impact the digital divide …
As the world becomes more digital, the inequities in the world naturally get transferred there. As connectivity increases, all of the usual social justice issues have a digital component — poverty, health care access, hunger, homelessness and education to name a few.
Technology has no magic bullets that solve these problems — it just tends to make whatever we’re doing more efficient. So, there may be some tech solutions that make it easier to address these issues. But if we’re not careful, tech can also reinforce and accelerate structural inequality. This is the big challenge.