Paul Butcher, Intel’s North American Marketing Manager for State and Local Government, has an opinion piece in GovTech Magazine this month. It’s an effective counterpoint to the “free for all” pitch, currently fashionable among many municipalities looking at wireless networks for their cities.
If you are familiar with Intel’s Digital Community initiative and the great companies who foster this initiative, you know that it has little to do with access, but instead promotes solutions. Solutions for example, which enable mobile workers, provide life saving capabilities for first responders, and enable device monitoring and control which enable greater efficiencies for local government.
In almost all cases, the visionaries and project managers behind these wireless initiatives are leveraging the network asset to achieve broader economic and community benefits which extend to citizens and local business.
As more communities announce RFP’s and wireless projects, I am hearing the call for “free access” with increased frequency. Worldwide broadband rankings have nothing to do with free access but instead have everything to do with sustainable business models
The implications of human nature: Fresh out of college, I worked for several years in a county public health facility as a clinical case manager. I had an opportunity to learn from some of the best councilors and administrators in the field and a chance to learn a little bit about poverty, the digital divide and human dignity. I worked with a variety of people, including people who suffered from mental disabilities, drug and alcohol addictions, some who were homeless, some elderly and the categories go on.
These clients were often unable to afford service but services were never provided for free, instead there were payment plans and sliding fee schedules. I learned that services rendered for “free” would always hinder an individual from achieving life-affirming change. I learned that a hand out of an item or service with real value can shame a person, while an intelligent plan can enable a person to hold their head high with dignity.
As we look to extinguish the digital divide, we should focus our resources on education, mentorship programs and payment programs rather than on free access or free devices. For those individuals who truly want to step up out of the divide, do not lower the bar of expectation; for doing so will only crush their spirit.
Meanwhile, Nigel Ballard manages Intel initiatives for low-income, underserved or immigrant populations. Nigel has been a member of Portland’s Personal Telco for years and actively supports the “free” concept.
Ballard joined Intel just days before Hurricane Katrina stuck. He was immediately asked to join the tiger team Intel had assembled to manage aspects of wireless technologies and deployments in the stricken area. Explains Ballard,
“The first thing I did Saturday morning (of Labor Day weekend) was phone every supplier I could think of to find one that had that many access points in stock. Then I had to find an Intel person who could put $106,000 on his credit card by Saturday noon, because we needed the equipment then and there.”
Added Ballard, “Normally, the bigger the company, the slower and thicker the treacle. Instead, we actually managed everything by noon. I was amazed at how a company this size could make things happen so easily.”
Glenn Fleishman has a podcast with Ballard this week (MP-3) Both Ballard and Butcher can be seen working together on municipal wireless for Intel.
It’s what you call teamwork.