Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

Community and Information Technlogy with John G. Jung

I set out to accomplish two things as I set foot in the Christ Church Cathedral on Queen Street on Tuesday afternoon: to learn as much as I could about intelligent communities and to shake my post-major project week blues. The sun came out to play, peering through the propped basement window and immediately provided a calm and informal atmosphere-despite the construction related cacophony reverberating in the small room. I then knew that this Q&A would be just the remedy I had been looking for after finishing my last semester of college this past Friday.


New York based global Think Tank, the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) Chairman and Co-founder John G. Jung joined us in the small basement room to discuss his book: Brain Gain . Jung is the current CEO of the Waterloo Region’s, Canada’s Technology Triangle and is a registered urban planner, urban designer and economic developer. His work follows him across the globe: Australia, India, Brazil and Taiwan are merely a few places Jung has visited in his line of work.


Jung made it very clear from the get go; he is not a techy. This statement caught me by surprise. After all, Jung works with communities developing their information technology infrastructures. His work, however, does not focus on the minute details of broadband technology or IT; rather,  it finds ways to utilize these tools to flourish growth and development in both urban and rural communities.


Jung really emphasized the versatility of the word 'community'. Communities are not necessarily bound by geographic borders, though they often are. Communities can form through media and online forums. Communities that share similar socio-economic and cultural ties can serve as important models and become catalysts for future growth and development in different urban and rural climates. Precedents set in similar locations can help urban planners and civic leaders in implementing similar design and models.


A community can be successful in developing growth utilizing many planning styles. A top-down approach may breed success in certain parts of the globe. A bottom-up approach can spark dialogue between citizens, planners and governments and be just as effective in others. Though economic stimulation is an important aspect of community growth, Jung stressed the importance of a multi-faceted approach. A community will not thrive if its members do not wish to stay-even with the prospect of a prominent economy and broadband expansion. Jung provided an interesting example of this effect. Chattanooga, Tennessee experienced rapid industrial growth after World War II ended and enjoyed a new level of prosperity. This rapid growth caused considerable environmental damage. Chattanooga became one of the dirtiest cities in the United States in the late 1960s. In order to mitigate this problem, municipal leaders began forming pollution control and regulation policies. This encouraged the population to stay and turned the city into a prime example of how efficient environmental regulations can be.


Jung shared many similar success stories; from the technological advancement in the jungles of Brazil, to the large urban centre developments in the Far East. His wealth of experience was clearly demonstrated with the list of seemingly endeless success stories. The technological advancements brought to these areas will continue to spur exponential growth all over the globe.


Though my major project week blues may still be looming--so it goes--I did still manage to check off the first goal on my list. Jung provided invaluable insight and instilled knowledge in me about a subject I had never even spent an iota of a minute pondering. The event proved to be a great distraction and I look forward to attending future events. With the help of critical thinkers like John C. Jung, the future of this festival keeps looking brighter.