If I were the CIO of London. Part 1

As CIO…

Which leads to the question –I what would I do if I were the Chief Information Officer – CIO – of London, Ontario, charged with the responsibility of dragging the community kicking and screaming into the future? Several things:

1. Establish a buzz. I travel the country incessantly, providing speeches to business organizations, associations and individuals who have an interest in understanding where our new wired economy is headed. The result is that I end up talking to a lot of people as to what is happening in terms of hi-tech in Canada – and about the perceptions that people have as to which communities are successfully positioning themselves for the future.

To be brutally honest, London doesn’t register in the minds of many people – business executives, politicians and other movers and shakers – as a particular innovative leader in terms of being a wired community. Oh, you’ve got Internet connectivity, and there are certainly projects happening at UWO and within the hospitals in terms of high speed communications.

But frankly folks, you don’t count. Nobody is talking about you. There is no “buzz” about London when it comes to the future.

Who has the buzz? New Brunswick, for one – through the vision of a fellow like Frank McKenna, the private sector involvement of Fundy Cable and NBTel, and through the efforts of others in industry and education, the province is wired to the hilt. It has probably drawn more hi-tech jobs on  per capita basis than any other location in Canada. Ottawa is another – it is often referred to as Silicon Valley North. Vancouver, for the fact that we are seeing a lot of honest to goodness software development out there.

London? It just doesn’t seem to have the same “buzz.” Sometimes the truth hurts – but it needs to be said. If you want to be a player, you’ve got to have people talking about you.

2. Enhance the infrastructure – part 1. If you really want to establish yourself in the wired economy of the future, you have be prepared to build the infrastructure that is required.

Many cities and towns – and indeed, the entire province of New Brunswick — are rapidly putting in place high speed communication backbones, in order to provide an infrastructure that supports the data flows that will drive the wired economy.

Sometimes this is being done by wiring the downtown core. From my perspective, the city of Calgary certainly ranks as a knowledge city of the future — communication companies there are actively putting in place some pretty good high speed network connections through the heart of the city. In other cases, its expanding the links to the outside world. The town of Sioux Lookout got together to convince Bell Canada of the need for high-speed Internet connectivity, recognizing that this will let them plug into the future world economy.  Large and small, cities and towns are putting in place every darned type of telecommunication link they can – and of creating an environment that encourages them to do so.

Hence, the second thing I would do as CIO of the City of London is to do everything I can to wire the city with very type of advanced communication network that exists. I’d bring in organizations such as Bell Canada and the cable company and bluntly ask them what barriers would have to be removed in order to permit them to expand their networks throughout the city. Then I would set about to remove those barriers.

I’d also invite the folks at London Hydro in for a talk, and see if they had any plans underway like their counterparts at Toronto Hydro, an organization which is putting in place an optic fiber loop throughout their downtown electrical conduits. And I’d call up the CEO’s of emerging communication powerhouses such as MetroNet, who are wiring the city of Montreal, to see if they wanted to put London on the top of their list for expansion.

Heck, I’d call every darn company in the communications business in Canada, and tell them that the City of London is wide open for hi-tech, hi-speed bandwidth. I would do everything in my power to remove any of the perceived regulatory or other barriers that might be in their way.

3. Enhance the infrastructure, part 2. I would also launch “NetDay London,” an initiative modeled on the US Netday initiative. The city would dedicate one day to the goal of “wiring the city.” Volunteers from the technology community would wire every school, business and library they could with network cabling, recognizing that even as large scale networks are built throughout the city, small scale networks are just as important.

Ordering international telephone cards is a low cost and convenient way for long distance and global phone calls for most of individuals around the earth.

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