Small Cities and Innovation

Urban centers and large cities have been typically cited as breeding grounds for innovation and creativity.  However, the National League of Cities, in celebrating “Small Cities Week” from June 19 to June 25, noted that small cities are frequent sites of innovative solutions and advances as well.  Although they do not often receive the same national recognition as their larger counterparts, the benefits of their creative solutions on a range of subjects, such as safety, waste reduction, and neighborhood revitalization, reach beyond their immediate communities and have the potential to impact the nation.

Bristol, Virginia, for example, is increasingly recognized as a showcase of digital inclusion and innovation for creating the first public utility in the U.S. to implement triple-play broadband over a fiber-to-the-user network. As a result, ubiquitous broadband access was brought not only to Bristol, but to six surrounding counties in the rural southwest Virginia region. In Clemson, South Carolina the city government turned to creative solutions to address inefficiency in its debris collection.  By partnering with PinPoint Geo Tech LLC, the city government created a new product: PinPoint- Public Works, which utilizes the latest in technological innovation to streamline the collection of debris by mapping locations before removal crews leave for work, thus eliminating the need for them to run routes on every street.

Small Cities Week, which honored the achievements of America’s small cities and towns, highlighted their vital role in American life and called on others to take notice of and learn from their accomplishments.

Posted by: Hyun Kyong Lee

Sources: Connecting Bristol, National League of Cities

Photo Credit: Mechita courtesy of flickr user Irargerich

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Reminder – BRICS: Shaping the New Global Architecture

Cosponsored by the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, the Asia Program, the Brazil Institute, the Program on America and the Global Economy, and the Africa Program

BRICS: Shaping the New Global Architecture

June 28 2011, 1:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m

Moderator: Amy M. Wilkinson, Senior Fellow, Center for Business and Government, Harvard University, and Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center
Marcos Galvão, Ambassador of Brazil to Japan, and former Secretary for International Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Brazil
Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor, Global Affairs, Moscow
Inderjit Singh, Professor of Economics and Strategic Studies, National War College
Wei Da, Director and Research Professor, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)
Francis A. Kornegay, Research Associate, Institute for Global Dialogue, Pretoria

This event will be held in the 6th floor Flom Auditorium in the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Posted by: PAGE Staff

Guest Contributor William Krist: Trade, Poverty, and Economic Development

The U.S. has an important interest in helping the poorest countries, most of which are in Africa, develop economically.  Over the long-term, as these countries develop they will become better markets for U.S. exports.  Poor countries cannot afford to buy many of our products, such as Boeing aircraft or Ford cars, but as they get richer U.S. exporters will find new and growing markets.

Economic development can also be important for encouraging the spread of democracy and as a tool in combatting terrorism.  As former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick stated “[p]overty does not cause terrorism, but there is little doubt that poor, fragmented societies can become havens in which terrorists can thrive.”

Trade has been an important tool for many countries to grow economically.  Unfortunately, many of the least developed countries are not participating in global trade to the extent they should be in order to promote economic growth.  In a June 16 conference sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Africa Program, the Prodi Foundation and SAIS, William Krist and John Sewell presented a paper outlining important steps African nations should take to expand their trade and boost their economic development, available here.

William K Krist is a Senior Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center.  He is a former Senior Vice President of the American Electronics Association.  He has written extensively on trade, development, and the environment. 

Photo Credit: David Hawxhurst/Woodrow Wilson Center

Cloud Computing and American Competitiveness

In today’s economy, an effective information technology (IT) infrastructure is essential to the proper functioning of almost every organization.  Cloud computing expands the potential of this effectiveness by facilitating automatic syncing of a user’s devices and by creating borderless IT networks.  In 2008, The Economist cited cloud computing as possibly being “the ultimate form of globalization”.  It allows users to rent virtual storage space for their information on an off-site multi-tenant server and access that information externally through the internet.  In this way, cloud computing conserves time and money and has the potential to revolutionize the organization, syncing, storage and sharing of files—all tasks that increase productivity and operational efficiency, which can help to make America more competitive in the global market.

Cloud computing can also act as a facilitator for entrepreneurship by lowering barriers to entry such as those associated with financing an IT infrastructure.  According to an article published in The MIT Entrepreneurship Review, cloud computing “provides start-up companies with access to enterprise-class servers and systems without [the] excessive up-front costs associated with traditional hardware and software licenses.”  The article also asserts that cloud computing creates opportunities for the next generation of “technopreneurs” similar to the opportunities that were created by the internet that resulted in the e-commerce boom of the late 90s.

In his article “Can Cloud Computing Save The American Economy?” Art Coviello writes that cloud infrastructures offer economies of scale, flexibility and efficiency, which “will not only save organizations massive amounts of capital and maintenance costs but emancipate them to apply and use information as never before.”  Through its use of shared infrastructure, cloud computing takes advantage of the aforementioned economies of scale and thus can provide savings for entrepreneurs who are launching startups while also allowing them to streamline their performance via cloud technology.

Entrepreneurs are not the only ones that can benefit from cloud computing; the U.S. government has been looking into the gains in competitiveness associated with this technology as well.  The February 2011 White House report titled Federal Cloud Computing Strategy cites cloud computing as a fundamental shift in IT since it enables these  systems to be “scalable and elastic”.  Furthermore, this report says that cloud computing improves existing systems by shifting resources towards higher-value activities as a result of efficiency improvements.  It also asserts that cloud computing simplifies IT and makes it more productive, accelerates data center consolidation, and encourages a culture of entrepreneurship through the reduction of risk and the minimum required investment.

The growth of cloud computing has, however, been accompanied by new security concerns.  Nonetheless, there is a silver-lining:  security initiatives such as the Cloud Computing Act of 2011 (drafted by Senator Amy Klobuchar) are meant to create standards and enforcement tools to ward off and prosecute hackers and promote online security.  If such security concerns are reconciled, cloud computing is poised to take U.S. IT systems by storm and make America a more efficient and competitive player within the international economy.  In the words of Coviello, “The time for cloud computing is now. We need government and industry to accelerate broad scale adoption of cloud infrastructures so we can reap the rewards of a true information based economy.”

Posted by:  Erica Pincus

Sources:  The Economist, forbes.com,The MIT Entrepreneurship Review,  Twin Cities Business, The White House

Photo Credit: IBM Cloud Computing courtesy of flickr user IvanWalsh.com

Event Summary – Brazil and Africa: Cooperation for Innovation in Agriculture and What the U.S. Can Do

The following is an event summary from an event co-hosted by the Brazil Institute and Wilson Center on the Hill.

On Monday, May 16 the Brazil Institute and Wilson Center on the Hill, part of the Program on America and the Global Economy, jointly hosted a lunch event focusing on African agriculture and opportunities for partnership and development in this area.

Paulo Sotero, the director of the Brazil Institute, opened the discussion by introducing the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa).  Embrapa was founded in the 1970s and has made enormous achievements in improving the productivity of tropical agriculture.

Ladislau Martin-Neto, the President of LAPEX-USA, Embrapa’s ‘virtual’ laboratory in the United States, also introduced Embrapa, reiterating that before Embrapa was created, Brazil was a net importer of food.  Thirty years later, Brazil is the second largest net exporter of food in terms of countries. Read more of this post

Innovation in a Global Environment

On Wednesday, May 11 Bruce Brown, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for the global consumer products behemoth Procter & Gamble, spoke at a forum at the Wilson Center hosted by the Program on America and the Global Economy (PAGE).  After introductions from Kent Hughes, PAGE Director, Brown began by providing an overview of the enormous array of products that P&G offers.  Regardless of the brand or product, Brown remarked that from Crest to Tide to Gillette, ‘[i]nnovation is our lifeblood.”

As Brown noted, Procter and Gamble has been in existence for 173 years.  Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, it has expanded from a candle manufacturer into one of the world’s largest companies.  Procter and Gamble (P&G) currently serves 4.2 billion customers through their many brands and products.  Brown stated that the goal was to serve 5 billion by the year 2014.  50 of their brands are referred to as P&G’s ‘leadership brands,’ 23 of which have sales of over $1 billion annually.  P&G currently operates in 26 countries on five continents, with the majority of operations within U.S.borders.  In addition to the U.S.government, P&G also maintains partnerships with the Singapore government and a number of American universities, notably the University of Michigan and Ohio State University.

Brown oversees a very active and vital segment of the P&G universe; the technology, research and development, and innovative arm.  He manages a research and development (R&D) staff of 8,700, one thousand of which hold PhD’s.  Brown stated that it is P&G’s goal to get the percentage of researchers with PhD’s up to 50% in the near future.  As one measure of P&G’s commitment to innovation, Brown pointed to P&G’s 40,000 patents with another 20,000 pending. Read more of this post

STEM Education in Africa

In the United States of America there is currently a nationwide push for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.  The U.S. is not alone however; Africa is also in the midst of encouraging STEM development.  Recognizing that advances in science and technology contribute to the social and economic development of Africa and its full integration into the global economy, the African Union came together on January 2007 for the Addis Ababa Declaration on Science, Technology and Scientific Research for Development.  In the declaration, Heads of State of the African Union nations encouraged “more African youth to take up studies in science, technology and engineering” and invited Member States to pay special attention to the teaching of science and technology.

In response to the declaration, the STEM Education Centre (STEM-Z) was established in Lusaka, Zambia on December 2009.  The key mission of the STEM-Z is “to enhance Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the Education System” and its Motto is “Towards a Science Culture.”  In order to achieve this goal, STEM-Z will address current challenges in science education, including curricula development, the lack of well-trained science teachers, and lack of access to appropriate laboratory facilities and teaching materials. To date, some of the Centre’s activities include science and technology awareness camps, student mentoring and coaching, and teacher training on specific STEM courses.

Since STEM-Z intends to be a model to be replicated in neighboring Sub-Saharan countries, the Centre’s progress will play a critical role in shaping the future of STEM education in Africa.

Posted by: Hyun Kyong Lee

Sources: South African Association of Science & Technology Centre, African Union, Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

Photo Credit: Grateful Children courtesy of flickr user Biggs_I