What is technology’s role in community development? That might sound like a stupid question, but for communities, answering this question may not be as easy as you think. That may be why a standing-room-only audience joined panelists from IBM, Create Hope, Fannie May and Intel to ruminate on the subject last May at the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Business Civic Leadership Center’s Corporate Community Investment conference held in Washington, DC. Intel Community Solutions was invited to share our unique approach to community development, one because our projects demonstrate novel ways how technology can be used to spur community development, and two, because we tend to develop projects that are, for the most part, self-sustaining. The question of technology’s role in community development stirred an interesting flow of opinions, sharing and ideas, focused less on the question and more on the challenges communities face when considering incorporating technology in community development, and in how to overcome them.While more and more communities succeed these days at incorporating technology into their community development plans, the barriers still flummox some community leaders as they try to figure out how to drive return on investment (ROI) from Information Communication Technology (ICT) solutions. And yet, more and more, technology is playing ever greater roles in community development allowing tech companies like Intel, IBM and others to implement CSR initiatives that both benefit community and support our business objectives. (As an aside, I know IBM has an suite of business tools and information that is intended to help citizens get a head start on building community through entrepreneurship). Back to the conference: Making technology work in the community development context means overcoming questions that pop up the moment a community member thinks about technology and community development: How can technology address our community problem? How do we afford to pay for such a solution? Once you’ve bought it, how do you afford to keep it up? How do you replicate or scale the solution community-wide once you have a solution that’s working? I’m not going to answer these questions in this post, but over time, I’ll share snippets of projects ongoing in Community Solutions that may provide some answers. We in Community Solutions don’t have all the answers of course. In fact, I’m hoping you can help answer some of the questions I have. I’d like to see this blog become more of a community, where CSR people are chipping in their ideas about how we can foster CSR projects that deliver benefits across communities and where appropriate integrate technology into the mix. So, How have you seen communities successfully grapple with these questions? Are they valid questions? Are there others? Do you have an innovative way to overcome the challenges these questions present? I’d love to hear your ideas.
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