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Commentary: Summit at NGCSU shows of technology can spur development

POSTED: March 13, 2011 12:30 a.m.
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Ruben Boling

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While the economy has negatively impacted our business world and personal lives in some ways in recent years, other trends have continued to grow and positively affect how we live, work and play.

At the core of the positive trends that seem to rise above the deteriorating economy and put us on a path to new heights is technology. Technology allows us to expand our world in unprecedented ways, and the future of North Georgia's economic growth, education system, local governments, and daily life will change with a new technological future that is just on the horizon.

The north Georgia region — particularly in suburban communities — already has experienced some advances in communication and information technology in recent years. Construction starts this month on the North Georgia Network, a 260-mile, fiber-optic ring funded with federal stimulus funds and matching state funds that connects 12 counties in the region. The network will bring high-speed broadband connectivity to rural and underserved areas of northeast Georgia. Imagine how this system could dramatically improve our economy and thereby change our lives.

Imagine business taking place anywhere, anytime.

Our increased capacity to communicate with people in our community and across the globe is changing our definition of business and personal community. Businesses once constrained by geography now have customers across the nation and beyond.

Social networking, video streaming and online transactions have made it possible for someone in the north Georgia mountains to sell their products to customers around the world.

Imagine accessing your personal and business information at any given moment.

Remember when we had to go into the office to work on a presentation or proposal? With cloud computing, computer applications and data follow us wherever we go — home, traveling, the local coffee shop, even your customer's office.

Access to applications through the "cloud" has allowed small businesses to use technological advances that previously were available only to larger organizations. With access to more powerful applications and broader connections, small businesses now appear much larger, at a much lower cost.

Imagine students experiencing in real time the development of a new compound  — an experience that influences them to become a great scientist.

Business is only one area experiencing positive change. There have been great advances in classroom technology and distance learning in recent years, but even greater change is ahead.

With budgets being slashed, labs and other hands-on activities that promote advanced learning in the sciences have become limited. The introduction of high-speed communications means students from different schools can simultaneously take part in experiments conducted by some of the greatest minds available.

Imagine students becoming world travelers without ever leaving their classroom.

High-speed communications also can take students on virtual trips around the world, where they can discover differences in culture, geography, and lifestyles. These online visits may be the first time some students have been able to travel beyond Georgia or even their own community.

How do these advances in technology help economic development? Developing curious and knowledgeable students will build the type of work force companies desire. It also strengthens schools and the education system to make our communities attractive to company executives moving to the area. Imagine companies from around the world wanting to locate in North Georgia because of our high quality education system. Imagine students prepared to start new businesses in their communities instead of leaving to seek success elsewhere.

We can imagine great opportunities from the coming technological change brought on by the North Georgia Network and other broadband advances. The 2011 Economic Summit at North Georgia College & State University on March 16 will provide business professionals, entrepreneurs and government officials with an opportunity to understand how other areas of the country are already taking advantage of this technology and the exciting prospects that lie ahead for our region.

Let your imagination run wild and understand that it is possible and it is coming to North Georgia.

Ruben Boling is an instructor in strategy and finance at North Georgia College & State University and director for the Center for the Future of North Georgia in the Mike Cottrell School of Business



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