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FiReGlobal West Notes

Joe Heitzeberg
October 20, 2009

Last week I attended FiReGlobal West as a guest speaker on a CTO Challenge Panel discussing how technology can help increase civic engagement at all levels of government.

Here are a few rough notes I took (and my opinions interwoven) throughout the day


The internet is disruptive to the traditional model of education. The role of teacher has (or must) change from leading a classroom step-wise through a lesson plan, to that of learning coach. Classrooms should not march forward in lock-step, but rather each student should have full access to the tools and knowledge that is the internet and be given the coaching needed to learn at their own individualized pace.

Currently policies like “no child left behind” serve to ensure that every child learns at the pace of the slowest child. This is backwards. Instead, the super-learners and laggards should each get the appropriate coaching and move at their own pace.

Naturally, teachers feel threatened by these changes. Forward-thinkers say “we’ve got to get the adults out of the way of technology”.


I jotted down notes about/from some of the local technology companies that were highlighted.

Serious Materials - creating drywall and 2-pane window components that compete with traditional materials but which are far more energy-efficient. Traditional drywall and 2-pane windows were inventions of 100+ years ago and have not innovated since. 52% of CO2 comes from buildings and building construction vs. only 9% from cars (worldwide). Key lesson learned: to make this a business, they’ve had to sell these not with a green message, but with an economic argument; they must be better, cheaper or both to sell.

InTouch Health - robot for hospital rooms allowing remote doctors to move around, talk to patient and view monitoring devices from anywhere in the world. This was one impressive demo!


“The world seems to ignore predictions — even well substantiated ones — and does not act until a severe, shocking event leads to some tipping point”

Current threats to our oceans: warming leading to extinctions, pollution leading to slow death of species, dams, dead zones, disease in fish farms, inbreeding in fish farms, species hunted to extinction, invasive species trans-location, acidification via C02, reef destruction, etc.

How do we foster the leadership to overcome these? put a price on carbon emissions so that the commercial world will engage in a market sense. Engage the tech community with a challenge, modify the politics to be more aligned with societal interests.

Michael Dell

On China: “Visiting there, you just wouldn’t think there’s an economic crises at all”

On IT Budgets during the Recession: “First there is cost control, then people’s minds turn towards productivity, then towards tools”

On the Future of IT: completely mobile-oriented workforces, devices are connected via cellular (instead of local ethernet and wifi), the corporate network is virtualized and IT support is purchases as a service

Trends: “ethernet over ethernet” simplification of data centers, servers and network architectures for internet companies getting dramatically simpler, virtualization driving storage needs (snapshotting, provisioning, etc)

One of DELL’s mantras: “Standardize \ Simplify \ Automate”

See Also…

Check out this post from xconomy which gives a 1000ft summary of the day’s discussions.

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