Making a “New” Old Brooklyn

by Jim Nice

Northeast Ohio continues to be recognized globally as a model of regional broadband implementation as the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) once again tabbed it as one of their 21 global “smart communities.”

Part of the ongoing efforts in the Cleveland area to separate the region from competitors includes the Northeast Ohio Broadband Coalition (NEOBC). This organization is bringing together stakeholders and vendors involved in both access technologies/hardware with those that develop content and applications to revitalize a West side neighborhood of Cleveland called Old Brooklyn.

Cleveland Councilman Kevin Kelly parlayed a number of financial resources and spearheaded by the local community development corporation, the Old Brooklyn neighborhood is in the early stages of deploying a wireless broadband infrastructure. His vision is a neighborhood that will attract and retain business while utilizing the Internet to enhance the attractiveness of the community and its workforce – while at the same time serving as a model for other Cleveland neighborhoods.

Key success factors for the model Old Brooklyn used include:

  • Community Engagement:  forming “communities of interest” around major broadband application areas to align expectations, resources and applications – education, health care, economic development, seniors, arts & culture, public safety, the underserved, utility usage.
  • Application Development: assembling a team of individuals and companies to work on developing and discovering applications, content, services & products to deploy on the network. In addition a local support team will anchor a storefront in Old Brooklyn, as the first occupant of a business incubator.
  • Communications: working with OBCDC to integrate the network – and its new tool set – into their communication strategies both internal to the neighborhood and externally to other constituencies. Expanding the news function of neighborhood publication “Old Brooklyn News”  into a “community information portal.”
  • Training: developing effective “digital literacy” programs that target local citizens and organizations. Adoption and usage of the network – driven by worthwhile applications – is the only way that its true benefits can be realized.

A holistic approach that embraces collaboration is a fundamental platform for success. A coalition representatives of every aspect of citizenry is involved in Old Brooklyn’s course of action – from residents to organizations, companies and associations sure to be impacted by access to a ubiquitous broadband network. This includes education, health care, senior citizens, public safety, utilities, community groups, economic development professionals and more. By focusing on stakeholder needs, Old Brooklyn demonstrates how focusing on awareness and adoption is a model that can be replicated throughout each of the cities and the rest of the region.

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