Grand Rapids is ready

Grand Rapids is ready

There is only one more day to nominate Grand Rapids as a potential site for a test launch of Google Fiber which would offer speeds 100x typical broadband. What I see when I look at what Google Fiber can bring to Grand Rapids is a big opportunity. This was further reinforced in my mind after I was invited to join the steering committee for this effort and witnessed tireless dedication and enthusiasm from a diverse cross-section of the community, something I’ve seen again and again in this town.

If you also see this as a huge opportunity, I encourage you to nominate Grand Rapids by 7pm Friday 3/26. Also, be sure to check out goog616.com and the Facebook page of GoogleFiber4GrandRapids for more information.

If you aren’t so sure yet, here is my take on it that I hope you will take into consideration…

I am a User Experience designer. In order to design a user interface or product, I need to observe and discover what a person’s goals are, from immediate needs in a particular context to life or experience aspirations. By gaining this understanding, I have a better chance to design an experience (UI, process or space) that can empower a person to see a way to achieve their goals.

If we, as a city, were to look at our goals and hopes across the spectrum of perspectives – those of us that live, work, learn, create or play here – how should we see the potential of GoogleFiber coming to Grand Rapids?

A good way to identify our collective goals, is to look at what we value and how this has been expressed in some of our best community accomplishments.

I think one stand-out example would be the inaugural ArtPrize event from this past fall, one that I was fortunate to be involved with as part of the ACTIVESITE artspace collaborative. With only five months from first announcement to event kick-off, ArtPrize went from an idea to an event that registered 37,219 voters, logged 334,219 votes, awarded $449,000, attracted 200,000 visitors and 1,262 artists from 41 states and 14 countries to 159 venues for 16 days. And it was like we have been hosting this event for years. Stunning. Could ArtPrize have been a huge hit were it not aligned with the hopes and aspirations of all those who made it happen? Whether you went to it, enjoyed it, talked about it, hosted artists, created the pieces, coordinated with the city, covered it or were part of the vision and sweat that started it all, we all made it happen and we all wanted it to be a success. And it was.

If I were to make a persona of the Grand Rapids community based on what I observed during ArtPrize and the months leading up to it, I would summarize that some of the life goals would be:

  • We want to express ourselves
  • We want to work together – knit together people, businesses and government
  • We want to attract community-minded people
  • We want to embrace new technology
  • We want to step up to a challenge
  • We want to rock on a national, nay, worldwide stage
  • We want to reach our potential and remain true to our values

Sure, it’s an incomplete list and more data would be needed to prioritize it, but if you look at ArtPrize, you can see how it’s success aligned with our goals as a community. We leapt on the potential, in this case an idea put forth by Rick DeVos for a radically open art competition and who, with others, designed a rollout in a way that really enabled us to leap upon it.

Google Fiber is another one of those opportunities where we have to ask ourselves, “Can you imagine what we could do if we had this?”. Looking back at our goals, would Google Fiber allow us to express ourselves, work together, enhance education and retain talent, generate new business innovation and allow us to grow and share our ideas and ideals with Google and the world?

Perhaps the question should be, “Can we afford NOT to find out what we can do with Google Fiber?”. So leap on it we must! And I hope you will too.

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