Earlier this month, the office of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke released the first report by the Chattanooga Forward Gig, Technology, and Entrepreneurship Task Force. This report is the product of many months of studying how Chattanooga has responded to and grown from its status as the city with the fastest, most pervasive, and least expensive gigabit service in the western hemisphere. The report points to many successes Chattanooga has experienced in becoming the “Gig City” – including the city’s partnership with Mozilla on the Gigabit Community Fund – but also lays out some key challenges for our community going forward, most notably digital access and inclusion for all Chattanoogans. The report also recommends the creation of a public-private partnership to direct Chattanooga’s gigabit efforts and to better communicate what our next-generation network can do for our local innovation economy.
It’s exciting that as a result of this report, a new organization is being formed to help shape the important ongoing conversation about what a gig can really do for a city. Since we launched the Gigabit Community Fund in early February, I’ve been meeting with Chattanoogans every day to have exactly this conversation as we explore what the gig can mean for our community’s classrooms and informal education spaces. These meetings resulted in the 20+ applications that were submitted by Chattanoogans during the Gigabit Community Fund’s spring application window, which closed last Friday night. Though these proposals have yet to be fully digested, scored, and reviewed, all could potentially help us to answer the task force report’s call to create “actual, practical demonstrations and applications of [Chattanooga’s] digital assets to help people understand.”
Not all of the applications we received ask for funding to support the next showstopping gig app or to host the newest high-profile tech demo. In fact, a lot of the proposed projects are about applying existing technology in a new setting or thinking about a common tech tool in a new way, and that’s awesome because as we begin to search for new, practical demonstrations of our digital assets, it’s not only about finding cool ways to use 1024 MB/second but also about finding ways to do old things better, more inclusively, and more openly without ever having to worry about the limits of our connectivity. The proposed projects are also awesome because, by taking place in classrooms and in informal learning organizations, they’re exposing whole new groups of Chattanoogans to our next-generation network. In so doing, they begin to address the task force report’s important call for increased digital access and inclusion and build critical capacity for Chattanooga’s technology future.
Though project funding decisions won’t be announced until mid-April, the conversation about what the gig can and should mean for Chattanooga’s educators and students continues, especially as the larger community conversation about our innovation economy grows louder. Our city is becoming a living laboratory in which to explore how gig networks impact lives and learning in classrooms, in libraries, in boardrooms, and in every other space in which Chattanoogans work, connect, and learn. Chattanooga’s Gigabit Hive Learning Community is creating a network through which to spur innovation in this living lab and develop connected learning opportunities that cross the boundaries of formal and informal learning spaces in the Gig City. Through this community, we can spread the impact of Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund projects beyond their pilot audiences and begin to create opportunities for all Chattanoogans to benefit from the gig as they create and remix on an unlimited web. Your voice is needed in this vibrant learning laboratory as we pilot, play, and test. Come to a meetup, share what you’re doing and learning with us on Twitter, and get in touch.