Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

Blog archive

White House wants students' brainy broadband ideas

It’s fine to solicit ideas from the crowd, but when you want something that’s really focused on solutions, you need to go directly to the brainy bunch.

At least that’s what I read into the White House’s most recent idea to turn to university graduates for suggestions on killer broadband apps. With the right kind of support, wrote Tom Kalil and Aneesh Chopra on the White House blog, students can once again play the role of innovators.

Kalil, the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s deputy director for policy, and federal chief technology officer Chopra point to a recent Computing Research Association document that details some past student creations: data compression, Ethernet, Unix, spreadsheets, Google and other innovations.

Kalil and Chopra are now suggesting that the time is right for students to once more step into the role of innovators. They say a new initiative could include a number of elements, such as:

  • Campus-based incubators for the development of broadband applications, with access to high-speed networks, cutting-edge peripherals, software development kits and cloud computing services.
  • Relevant courses that encourage multidisciplinary teams of students to design and develop broadband applications.
  • Competitions that recognize compelling applications developed by students. Some existing competitions that could serve as models include Google’s Android Developer Challenge, Microsoft’s Imagine Cup and the Federal Communications Commission/Knight Foundation’s Apps for Inclusion Challenge.

Fair enough. But “once again”? Maybe I’ve gotten the wrong impression in the past few decades. Minus a couple of years during the dot-com fiasco when many university students were looking to sell business plans for gazillions of dollars, I thought universities had consistently been innovating.

Maybe I’m wrong. Put me right if I am.

Posted by Brian Robinson on Mar 26, 2010 at 9:03 AM


Reader Comments

Tue, Mar 30, 2010 FMStutz Washington, DC

The dot-com era was certainly a fiasco economically, but it did provide one key learning for the tech students working their collective way through higher education today: it's not enough to have a great idea or invent some nifty technology, you also have to think through distribution and the economics, as well. Superconductivity is a great technology that's been around long enough that it no longer garners consumer-science headlines, but where do you see it applied at a consumer level? The barrier is not the science, it's the capitalistic economics that stand between new technology and its adoption by enough of a consumer market to sustain it.

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