People, Resources and Notes from ‘Charlotte 2025: The Connected City’

Best Minds 2015 Conference panelists: EJ Elgin of Project Lift, John Horrigan of Pew Research, Twyla McDermott of the City of Charlotte, Amy Hawn Nelson of the Urban Institute at UNCC, Aaron Smith of Pew Research, Erica Swanson of Google, and Keva Walton of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.

Conference panelists EJ Elgin, Twyla McDermott, Amy Hawn Nelson, Aaron Smith, Erica Swanson, and Keva Walton. Photos by Joe Cornelius.

National thought leaders from five fields met with 200 Charlotte community members on March 20-21, 2015, for the Knight School of Communication’s annual Best Minds Conference — this year focused on the connected future of Charlotte.

The conference generated discussions among community members and leaders from education, business, technology, cultural production and civic engagement. Key questions included: What will the Charlotte of 2025 look like? How do faster networks reshape the fabric that holds families, neighborhoods, communities, businesses, schools, and cities together? How do organizations make technology relevant to city residents? How does the city ensure digital literacy and inclusion for everyone who wants to participate and contribute?

This year’s conference followed Google’s “fiberhood” movement, after the company’s recent announcement to build a fiber network in Charlotte. The announcement will ultimately place the city’s Internet infrastructure among the fastest in the world.

Conference leaders included Aaron Deacon, managing director, Kansas City Digital Drive; EJ Elgin, instructional technology facilitator, Project LIFT, Charlotte; John Horrigan, senior researcher, Pew Research Center; Twyla McDermott, corporate information technology manager, City of Charlotte; Amy Hawn Nelson, director of research, Urban Institute, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Aaron Smith, senior researcher, Pew Research Center; Erica Swanson, head of Community Impact programs, Google Fiber; and Keva Walton, senior vice president for member engagement, Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. The conference was moderated by Dr. Eric Freedman, dean of the Knight School of Communication.


Digital Inclusion: A Long-Term Investment, an October 2014 post in the Google Fiber blog

Digital Readiness: Nearly One-Third of American Lack the Skills to Use Next-Generation “Internet of Things” Applications, a June 2014 report by communications/technology policy consultant John B. Horrigan

Google’s Fiber Effect: Fuel for a Broadband Explosion, an April 2014 story in the technology website CNET

Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, a 2009 report from the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy

KC Digital Drive, the website of a Kansas non-profit organization focused on positive civic outcomes from next-generation technology networks

Lessons from Google’s First Rollout of Google Fiber, a February 2015 story in the business website Fast Company

Methodology for Identifying and Addressing Urban Areas with Low Broadband Adoption, a 2014 brief from The Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation

The Most Revealing Broadband Adoption Maps We’ve Ever Seen, a February 2014 article in The Atlantic’s Citylab

The State of the Internet 2014, a report from the technology company Akamai

Using Civic Engagement and Collaboration to Create Community Change: Lessons from Charlotte, N.C., a 2012 article from The Foundation Review

Why Broadband Matters: A Look at its Impact and Application for Cities, a 2013 guide from the National League of Cities<br>


Erica Swanson, EJ Elgin, Amy Hawn Nelson, Aaron Smith, Twyla McDermott, Aaron Deacon, Keva Walton, John Horrigan, and Eric Freedman