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Kansas City Public Library hosts 'Building The Gigabit City 2.0' event

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Kyle Geary — The Hale Center For Journalism

Local technological wizards and dreamers gathered Thursday at the Central Library in downtown Kansas City, Mo., for a day-long brainstorming session on how the community can benefit from super-fast Internet connectivity.

What brought them together was an innovation effort driven by Mozilla, a nonprofit organization that has offices around the globe dedicated to creating open-source products for the Web. In partnership with the National Science Foundation, the organization has created the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund to seed ideas to use next-generation networking technologies focused on education and workforce development.

Awards of between $5,000 and $30,000 are available for projects that can be completed within 12 weeks.

“Together with the Mozilla Community Fund we’ll be able to determine the measurable impact on our resident’s everyday lives,” Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James told attendees.“We’ll be able to focus on the needs of our local community; specifically how they relate to education and workforce development. These are two areas that are hugely valuable to this type of community.”

Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., are both participating in the community fund. Both communities are also part of the Google Fiber effort, where the Internet search giant is offering service that is 100 times faster than standard broadband.

Afternoon breakout sessions focused on six areas:

  • K-12 education

  • Higher education

  • Seniors & lifelong learning

  • Workforce development

  • Digital inclusion and access

  • Making & Digital storytelling

Participants in seniors and lifelong learning session, for instance, envisioned a virtual storytelling system that seniors could access through their TV. It would include features like videos from National Geographic and perhaps other information from other local historical institutions. The main idea was to entertain frail elderly who were no longer able to travel.

With Google Fiber, many public officials and entrepreneurs are speculating what it will mean for the future of Kansas City. It is very early in the Google Fiber rollout in the Kansas City metro, and while there are high aspirations, its true potential will only be measured when it is more readily available, according to attendees at Thursday’s event.

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