Book Review: Brain Gain: How innovative cities create job growth in an age of disruption

There’s a new book out that could serve you personally, and might save your community at the same time. It’s Brain Gain: How Innovative Cities Create Job Growth in an Age of Disruption (2014) by Robert Bell, John Jung, and Louis Zacharilla.

Book: Brain Gain

The book reveals in its title the secret to prosperity in the 21st Century. For individuals and communities, the key is to use your brainpower to design, develop, and deploy solutions for human needs and desires.

At a time of gridlock at the nation-state level, progress is happening mainly at the community level worldwide. Some cities are moving forward in innovative ways. These are the “smart cities” that people want to move to and live in.

Brain Gain’s co-authors are the three co-founders of the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), which gives out the “Intelligent Community of the Year Award.” (I am one of the volunteer professionals on the International Jury who pick the winning community.)

Only a few United States cities have made the cut. Yet cities in Canada, Europe, Taiwan, Korea and elsewhere are advancing rapidly at the level the ICF expects and rewards. There are now 126 such cities worldwide.

+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD:Toronto cracks winner's circle in Smart City competition +

Blame ICT (Information and Communication Technology)

We are in a time of historic progress and serious economic disruption. What’s causing this “seismic shift,” the authors ask? Their answer: “Blame ICT.”

They cite research that “industries that adopted ICT at faster rates (as measured by their spending on ICT and R&D) also saw the fastest growth in demand for the most educated workers and the sharpest declines in demand for people with intermediate levels of education.”

ICT is causing these huge changes, and ICT also is a catalyst for succeeding personally and socially in the midst of these changes.

The authors call upon government, business and institutional leaders to work together, “helping to increase the need for skill in the world and making sure our people meet the need.”

Smart City Success Factors

As a blueprint for success, here are the five “Intelligent Community Indicators”:

  1. Broadband Connectivity: Broadband is the new essential utility, as vital to economic growth as clean water and good roads. Communities should craft policies to encourage deployment and adoption.
  2. Knowledge Workforce: A knowledge workforce is a labor force that creates economic value through the acquisition, processing and use of information. Develop a workforce qualified to perform knowledge work from the factory floor to the research lab.
  3. Digital Inclusion: Promote digital inclusion to provide “have-nots” with access to digital technology and broadband, by providing skills training and by promoting a compelling vision of the benefits of the Broadband Economy.
  4. Innovation: For business, broadband has become to innovation what fertilizer is to crops. Build the local innovation capacity of new companies, because these produce all of the job growth in modern economies. Invest in e-government to reduce costs while delivering services that digitally savvy citizens expect.
  5. Marketing and Advocacy: Communities must work harder than ever to communicate their advantages and explain how they are maintaining or improving their position as wonderful places to live, work and build a growth business. Advocacy builds a new vision of the community from within.

Advice for the Digital Native: Get Thee to a Smart City

Half the people in the world live in urban areas today. By 2050 it’s forecast that two-thirds of the global population will be urban. Where will you be in the next 25 years?

Here’s advice: The urban strategist Neal Peirce coined the term “citistates” to point to the new concentration of power in special metropolitan areas worldwide.

Like the city-states of renaissance Europe, the new citistates are wielding social and economic influence far beyond their population scale. Those are the places to succeed and prosper.

The authors of Brain Gain say, “The good news is that while the Broadband Economy presents an epic challenge to communities, it also hands them a powerful competitive tool. Broadband offers every community the opportunity to move from the periphery to the center in economic terms.”

So if you can move yourself and your family, get thee to a smart city.

That’s also the place your can build your knowledge and further educate yourself and your family. You are the kind of people these information renaissance citistates need.

Brain Gain lays out the type: “those with marketable skills searching for a market, the risk-takers, the ones with imagination and the willingness to dare.”

Jay Gillette is professor of information and communication sciences at Ball State University, director of its Human Factors Institute, and a senior research fellow and officer at the Digital Policy Institute. He also serves as Fulbright-Nokia Distinguished Chair in Information and Communications Technologies at the University of Oulu, Finland for 2014-2015.


Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022