With Digital Drive, KC leadership continues push to make most of Fiber

The Mid-America Regional Council on Thursday announced the formation of KC Digital Drive, the latest iteration on a plan by civic leadership from both sides of the …

The Mid-America Regional Council on Thursday announced the formation of KC Digital Drive, the latest iteration on a plan by civic leadership from both sides of the state line to help Kansas City make the most of its early access to Google Fiber.

A profusion of ad hoc efforts focused on leveraging Google’s ultra high-speed network popped up soon after the company announced it was bringing Fiber to Kansas City, Kan. and, later, to Kansas City, Mo.

But August 2011 saw the highest-profile effort on the Fiber front by elected officials, as Sly James, the mayor of Kansas City, Mo. and Joe Reardon, the mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., announced the formation of the Mayors’ Bistate Innovations Team. In May 2012, the MBIT released its “playbook,” a 37-page document called “Playing to Win in America’s Digital Crossroads“.

Mike Burke and Ray Daniels, who served as co-chairs of the MBIT, are also serving as co-chairs of KC Digital Drive’s leadership council. Aaron Deacon, who was involved with the MBIT and has helped with several other Fiber-related initiatives, will serve as KC Digital Drive’s managing director, a full-time role. 

KC Digital Drive was a direct result of a recommendation in the MBIT’s playbook. The playbook also called for measures like innovation in education and telehealth; incubators for tech entrepreneurs; regular round table meetings to establish Kansas City as a global leader in digital innovation; upgraded convention center technology; and a more robust IT workforce.

Deacon’s charge as managing director is to coordinate resources and organizations from the Kansas City area to deliver on those objectives. “There’s got to be some accountability for it, and there’s got to be some momentum behind moving the stuff that’s in there forward,” Deacon (left) said in a phone interview. “So this initiative is designed to do that.”

Progress has already been made toward some of the goals in the playbook. Launch KC, an effort to attract tech entrepreneurs and companies to the Crossroads District and greater downtown Kansas City, was announced in September. The Digital Sandbox, a proof-of-concept center with a focus on technology transfer, got the green light later that month. The Gigabit City Summit, a series of virtual meetings between Kansas City leaders and leaders from other cities across the globe, has held three global roundtables.

In the immediate future, KC Digital Drive will focus on prioritizing playbook initiatives, developing digital inclusion strategies and redesigning its website to allow for better communication with the community.

“It’s pretty broad in scope,” Deacon said of the playbook’s recommendations. “The early tasks are going to be prioritizing and honing in on things and tracking things so we can make progress quickly.”

Deacon, who is president of Social Media Club KC and has helped organize Fiber-related projects like Building The Gigabit City and Give Us A Gig over the last year-plus, said his role with KC Digital Drive is not so much a new job as it is an extension of what he’s been doing already.

“I just think (Fiber is) a really exciting opportunity for this metro area and have tried to do a number of different things to help move that forward for the area,” he said. “And I think it’s personally interesting and invigorating, and I really enjoy working on it.”

He said the formation of KC Digital Drive is evidence that city leadership on both sides of State Line Road is also serious about making the most of Fiber.

“I think it really speaks to the motivation of the mayors and city leadership,” he said. “They’re committed to this effort. They recognize the value of the opportunity and think it’s important to commit resources to.”

Credits: Photo of Deacon from linkedin.com.


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