Part of IBM's very successful Smarter Planet marketing campaign to change the relationship between the deluge of data and how we might intelligently use it has been directed toward Smarter Cities.
There are lots of ways cities can be improved -- less traffic, less crime, better citizen services -- but many of them rest on the availability of a well educated population both to understand and support these new initiatives and also to provide the skilled workers who will help plan and carry them out.
As part of the Smarter Cities initiative, IBM has been presenting one-day forums around the world, directed at both what a Smarter City can achieve and also at the education issues. Recently, I participated in an event in Philadelphia, at the National Constitution Center, an impressive and inviting venue. I'm not sure what I liked best:
- The impressive line up of guest speakers, including the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter.
- The presentations and panel discussions which were much more about how Smarter Cities intersected with local issues, featuring local participants, than high-level presentation about IBM. So refreshing!
- The networking, which was great. I made contacts with three people which renewed old acquaintanceships, led to discussions about future possibilities, and made the event worthwhile, all on their own. This is a by-product of the people IBM invited as both speakers and event attendees and there
- The panel I participated on which was about K-12 educational efforts in Philadelphia and striking the balance between what industry needed students to learn and what (and how) schools do and should teach their students.
I was there as an industry person, rather than an educator (although I have taught at the graduate school level and hope to do that again), trying to answer the question of just what will we need students entering the work force to know in order to best participate in the workplaces we're trying to build.
A not inconsiderable part of the fun was the other panelists I got to interact with (as well as the audience). I happened to be sitting next to Lisa Nutter (the wife of Mayor Nutter and the President of Philadelphia Academies). On my other side was Peg McManus, the Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at La Salle University. I was the first woman graduate of LaSalle (and the panel's chair, IBM's Stan Litow, VP of Corporate Citizenship and Affairs and President of the IBM International Foundation introduced me that way). Peg an I had an automatic common bond.
Also on the panel were Carol Fixman of the Philadelphia Education Fund, Alan Barstow from the Organizational Dynamics program at the University of Pennsylvania, and Steven Wray, from the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. It was a lively discussion.
It is the unique combination of the idea of Smarter Cities, ennunciated by the IBM hosts, and the local participants, talking about the possibilities and the challenges, that made this event so interesting. I am guessing that there will be similar events, each unique, in other cities.