In today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I advance three potential solutions for job creation and economic growth – not just for Atlanta, but for any city or community confronting the challenge of runaway unemployment among its young:
- Expand the Growth Potential of Small Businesses so that they may continue to serve as engines for job creation.
- Close the Gap Between Skills and Jobs so today’s young people will be ready for tomorrow’s explosive job growth for those with the right training.
- Create Public-Private Partnerships to Tackle Big Problems that no single sector can overcome alone.
Specifically, I detail how programs that are already underway are helping business and community leaders work together to revitalize the economy and make their cities better places to live.
We who are increasingly preoccupied with maintaining our energy supplies may not appreciate that the luxuries of indoor cooking or lighting after dark remain dreams for billions of people around the world. Closer to home, our abundant energy may remain out of reach for the elderly on fixed incomes who must sometimes choose between food and heat. That’s why I was inspired after attending the IBM Start Sustainability Summit at Lancaster House last year, and have been heartened by our recent Smarter Cities Challenge engagement to help end fuel poverty in Glasgow.
The Start Sustainability Summit – a nine-day brainstorm on social, economic, and environmental sustainability – produced the idea of providing universal access to affordable and sustainable energy. The idea was put into action earlier this month with the announcement of Energy Aid, a new global charity with a mission to provide sustainable energy for those who have limited or no access for heating, lighting, cooking, communications and mechanical work.
Not having basic access to energy is profoundly limiting in many ways. Lack of access to energy limits the quality and duration of life. And while it diminishes the chances for economic prosperity, lack of access to energy – perhaps surprisingly – also damages the environment. As families scramble to find ways to cook their food, they diminish their available energy sources – depleting bio matter faster than it can regenerate, and driving large-scale deforestation and environmental degradation. It’s unsustainable.
People from IBM, Practical Action, the London School of Economics and Political Science and other organisations are working hard to create the infrastructure needed to sustain Energy Aid, and the results of their work will become clear in 2012. But for Energy Aid to succeed, it will need both financial and ideological support. That’s why when I talk to groups of school and college students about the importance of studying science, maths, engineering, and technology, I remind them of the importance of applying their skills. Simply being a brilliant mathematician or engineer is not enough to help solve the problems of today’s world. You must transform your ideas into action.
Building a Smarter Planet is a great idea, but it’s even better when that idea becomes a reality.
IBM’s “5 in 5” forecast of innovations that will alter the technology landscape within the next five years includes the prediction that mobile technologies will close the digital divide between rich and poor. In the very near future, mobile devices and over-air networks will enable disconnected and disenfranchised populations to circumvent traditional infrastructures to participate in the global economy. However, substantive innovations in the technology of learning must complement our advances in global connectivity.
Technology’s most profound impact on underserved populations can be its ability to improve education, but simply “having” technology is not enough. A computer, for instance, can never replace a good teacher. And internet access and computer labs alone cannot improve instruction. But when technology is well integrated into the classroom and coupled with teacher training, it can enable essential improvements in teaching and learning.
Integral to our corporate citizenship efforts, IBM is forging public-private partnerships to create a smarter education system by strengthening the focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) competencies. In addition, we have longstanding programs that continue to open new possibilities to people around the world.
- Our Reading Companion program uses IBM speech recognition technology to help children and adults gain literacy skills in English.
- In partnership with TeachEngineering and the New York Hall of Science, Teachers TryScience provides new resources, specifically designed for science teachers struggling to provide high quality, hands-on problem based learning.
These are just a few of the many ways – from helping our retirees transition to teaching, to reinforcing our commitment to mentoring and school volunteerism – in which IBM is helping to improve the technology of learning that must accompany the advances that will close the digital divide.
Imagine being asked to live and collaborate for three weeks with six people you have never met. Factor in a problem that has to be solved in less than 30 days. And not just any problem, but one that matters – with a potential solution that could make a huge difference for a city and its citizens. I had the opportunity to face this challenge as part of an IBM team working with the City of New Orleans.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu delineated the city’s problems to us directly in our first meeting: New Orleans needs a 21st century government with active community partnering, data-informed decision making, and an outcome-based culture. The mayor, the city’s workers and the city’s residents share the same clear vision. New Orleans is a great city that can – and should – be even better.
Our challenge was to determine how to use information technology as a catalyst for transforming New Orleans into a great city. Our standard was the 4Cs of City Greatness. New Orleans already is Cosmopolitan and has loads of Charisma – two of the Cs that make a city great. What the Smarter Cities Challenge team was there to help develop were the remaining two Cs:
- Currency – New Orleans’ ability to shape the world through economic impact;
- Concentration – New Orleans’ transformation into a vibrant city without urban blight, where all neighborhoods thrive with life.
But for New Orleans to realize its potential, the city’s leaders had to stop governing “in the dark.” Cities, like companies, must get smarter if they hope to thrive. And New Orleans’ residents and municipal workers recognized the transformational power of information to unearth new opportunities. They understood how smarter data management could help them affect organizational change. They wanted to transform their city into one in which information sharing exists so that citizens can hear and see what is going on in their neighborhoods.
Our primary recommendation required a foundation that would promote data sharing to create a new supply chain of information. This information supply chain would allow data to flow freely – enabling community leaders and citizens to view the progress and outcomes of government programs. Through the intelligent use of data, the people of New Orleans would be able to benchmark and track improvements in the city’s infrastructure, education system, and public safety.
Next, the Smarter Cities team provided an action-oriented report – a blueprint for how New Orleans can create the information supply chain needed to help realize the city’s vision for its future. The blueprint will help New Orleans improve its approach to becoming an outcome-based culture, and will enable data-informed decision making with active community partnering. The Smarter Cities report shows how New Orleans’ vision of becoming a smarter city can become a reality.
As part of IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge, I had the chance to spend three weeks in Syracuse, New York helping city officials understand how to reduce residential property vacancy rates. More than four percent (about 1,500) of Syracuse’s 35,000 to 45,000 housing units are vacant, and their byproducts – urban blight, street crime, and declining property values and tax revenues – are impacting residents’ quality of life. My IBM colleagues and I were onsite to show civic and community leaders how to use technology to analyze, predict and ultimately prevent the spread of vacant residential properties.
So, what’s the connection? How can technology help solve the problem of empty houses and urban decay? It can be a difficult concept to grasp, but the short answer is that technology can turn data into insight. Cities can use data to build predictive mathematical models to forecast the spread of vacant properties. In Syracuse, they needed to identify and aggregate the information that was stored in many different forms and places so it could be used to develop workable plans.
In short, Syracuse needed to move from decision making based on anecdotal knowledge and reactive strategies to development of proactive policies based on informed, holistic insights. The city hadn’t been able to find or afford the kind of expertise they knew they needed, which is one of the reasons why working with them through the Smarter Cities Challenge was so rewarding.
Since 2008, more than half of the world’s population has lived in cities, and municipal leaders everywhere are grappling with how to support successful growth, better deliver services, engage citizens, and improve efficiency for greater numbers of constituents. The need for better city management has never been greater, as urban populations continue to increase. And the Smarter Cities Challenge has already helped cities like Edmonton and St. Louis use data to help reduce traffic problems and improve public safety.
Syracuse has a broad and diverse ecosystem, with committed stakeholders – policy makers, police, social aid agencies, housing authorities and neighborhood associations – who are uniformly and passionately committed to making things better. I don’t imagine the Syracusans we met were that much different from committed and passionate stakeholders in any of the other cities that have received (or will receive) Smarter Cities Challenge grants, but I would bet they are somewhat ahead of the curve when it comes to appreciating how critical the analysis of data is to making better, more informed decisions.
IBM’s new CEO Virginia Rometty and I attended a Harvard Business School Summit on U.S. Competitiveness last week along with dozens of CEOs and influencers from companies such as Amazon, Amgen, Citicorp, Cummins Engine, Duke Energy, Hess, Kraft Foods, and JPMorgan Chase. IBM North America General Manager Bridget Van Kralingen will deliver the keynote address at today’s “U.S. Competitiveness: The Next 100 Years Forum with IBM” conference at Roosevelt House, co-sponsored by IBM and the Roosevelt Institute of Hunter College. The common theme of both of these conferences is the complex interrelationship between the public and private sectors and some of the components of competitiveness – including entrepreneurship, innovation, and human capital.
At the Harvard Business School summit, Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration and SuperCorp author Rosabeth Moss Kanter presented a working paper on “Enriching the Business Ecosystem”. In her new paper, Professor Kanter advances compelling arguments for increased public-private partnerships as a key component of an integrated strategy to make the U.S. more competitive in the global economy. The challenges of forging meaningful partnerships in a difficult economic environment can be severe. But one can also argue – as Professor Kanter does – that tough times require integrated and comprehensive innovations that only public-private partnerships can bring about.
When the U.S. government came together to pass the Social Security Act during the dark days of the 1930s depression, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins – the first woman appointed to a cabinet post in the history of the United States – reached out to private industry for help. Secretary Perkins and IBM CEO Thomas Watson, Sr. worked together to construct the groundbreaking and innovative management and operating system that served to undergird Social Security. The program was a new and essential safety net that helped the nation to recover and enabled its most vulnerable citizens to survive. Without a public-private partnership, it is unlikely that Social Security ever would have gotten off the ground.
A similar public-private partnership was initiated in the 1960s. That partnership helped the United States put a man on the moon, and created a panoply of scientific advances that survive to this day. NASA and IBM collaborated on the integrated effort that helped to create the U.S. space program and enabled our nation meet the challenge that President Kennedy had outlined in his historic address.
Today, it is both ironic and sad that finger pointing at government, at business, and at a variety of geographic, economic and social interests comes just when innovative public-private collaborations are more essential than ever before. Public-private partnerships are desperately needed to address our critical 21st century challenges – whether they involve improving education and driving economic growth; creating smarter systems for transportation, health care, and environmental sustainability; or knitting together a new social safety net. It is naïve to believe that any single sector of the economy can help us overcome the interconnected challenges of the 21st Century. And as the latest research from our best business minds indicates, we ignore these truths at our peril.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter will publish an expanded version of “Enriching the Business Ecosystem” in Harvard Business Review in early 2012.
The United States is at the beginning of a critical transformation of how we prepare our students for postsecondary success. In brief, the movement to reform K through 12 education will continue to miss its objective of meeting America’s workforce needs if it does not properly engage employers. Such engagement must extend far beyond “career days” and corporate philanthropy to develop programs that equip students with the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in college and the workplace.
Long gone are the days of the one-room schoolhouse, where a student’s education was secondary to his or her value as agrarian or domestic labor. Equally obsolete is the “tracked curriculum” classroom and its contemporary manifestation distinguished by benchmarking, state standards, and systematic testing driven by No Child Left Behind. Agrarian and industrial sensibilities – such as the “seasonal” school year calendar that we still cling to – have little relevance in the global information economy. It’s time for public-private partnerships to align education, skills, and jobs. It’s time for what I call Education 3.0.
Education 3.0 leverages the power of public-private partnerships to equip all students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and careers. Education 3.0 aligns K through 12 education with the expectations of the postsecondary and workforce worlds – providing students with more options and greater opportunities for their futures while helping to sustain our nation’s competitive edge in the global marketplace.
We need to reassess the reasons we provide public education, and redefine the key stakeholders. At the national level, stakeholders include both students and employers. Therefore, to keep the national economy growing and competitive, our schools need to give young people the skills and knowledge they’ll need to engage in economically viable activity.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills are key – not just for the benefit of our economy and competitive edge, but for individual advancement as well. A new study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reports that STEM jobs are among the nation’s fastest growing and highest paid. Despite this, a recent Society for Human Resource Management survey says that 52 percent of U.S. employers have difficulty finding employees for job openings in areas requiring training in engineering and science.
Education 3.0 public-private partnerships are moving forward to close this skills gap. The Business Roundtable’s JobSTART 101 program offers a free online course for college students and recent college graduates that introduces the professional skills necessary for entry-level employees to succeed in the workplace. At the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, STEM students are provided an opportunity to work at innovative companies on campus. And in Brooklyn, New York, IBM’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) is a grades 9 through 14 institution from which students earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in a computer-science-related field. P-TECH graduates will be prepared for entry-level employment in the growing technology industry, and will be first in line for jobs at IBM.
Similarly, United Parcel Service (UPS) has partnered with the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, and the Jefferson Community & Technical College to create Metropolitan College in Louisville. Metropolitan College provides eligible Kentucky residents access to a tuition-free postsecondary education, and schedules its classes to enable UPS employees to study and sleep during the day while continuing their UPS careers at night. This public-private partnership was created to meet projected workforce and educational needs in Jefferson County, and it is serving as a model for other regions.
These are just a few of the many great public-private partnerships that are helping align education with skills and jobs, and we need more. It’s time for the next generation of educators, employers, and students to embrace Education 3.0.
Cordell Carter is Director of Public Policy at the Business Roundtable.
With more than seven million people in its metropolitan area, Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa. Unfortunately, years of economic turmoil and urban blight have made “Jo’burg” as famous for its high crime rate as for its rich history and cultural importance. Earlier this fall, my teammates Vania Curiati, Renee Ducre, Pat Guzman, Subu Iyer, Christel Verschaeren and I served as part of an IBM Executive Service Corps (ESC) team on an engagement in Johannesburg to help improve the quality of life in the city. Our mission was to define a five-year roadmap to smarter public safety, a key component of Jo’burg’s smarter city transformation.
A Johannesburg Shantytown
Setting the Agenda
The primary purpose of the roadmap was to specify the key actions that Johannesburg should take to move toward smarter public safety. Once we had this successful recipe for change, the city could reuse the methodology to achieve similar goals in other parts of its Growth & Development Strategy (GDS) – a comprehensive outline of where Johannesburg plans to be by the year 2040.