On Building a Smarter Planet at the Border of School and Work

The smarter planet initiative at IBM is coming online at the same time as next acropolis; we participate in a larger trend of attempting to integrate social processes into computing process (social computing). IBM’s project involves integrating IT into daily infrastructures like water procurement, traffic, education and such. Visit IBM’s initiative page at:  http://asmarterplanet.com/

Our system deals with the microenvironment that exists at the border of education and the economy; to us, it’s a Tijuana sort-of-place, not quite one country and not quite another, but a place entirely defined by the border.

Next Acropolis helps individuals clear the hurdle of locating smart employment at the time of graduation, yes. But we know the problem of achieving relevance in the economy requires more than just a one-time job search. As a firm we believe that the best students envision their objective employment throughout their education, not in the final months before matriculation.

In this way, Next Acropolis contains listings of jobs. However, given the prevalence of job sites, we feel that mere job sites accomplish little more than transfer traditional want ads in the newspaper into a digital context. This does little to transition the economy; during the last ten years of intensive use of job boards and other monster.com-like sites that corporations have simply viewed human capital as a quickly switched, cheap resource to which fewer benefits and other assets can be awarded. Conversely, individuals who are employed believe that through the use of such job tools that employment can be switched frequently, and employer loyalty is no longer conceivable.

These trends decrease the economic efficiency of firms because they must rely completely on individuals with no commitment to their firm, and cannot train extensively nor invest significantly in individuals, lest they depart the firm. Individuals must invest their own capital in order to secure jobs, indebting them and forcing career transition.

The productivity of corporations increasingly rests in applying more power to fewer employees. The first jobless recovery of  2002-2003 seemed to fortify this concept: utilize outsourcing, automation and place large packages of analytical IT systems in the hands of workers, and per capita productivity rises. Indeed, at each cycle of GDP growth in this decade, drastic elevations in worker productivity takes place after drastic layoffs and the purchase of effective information technologies, such as in our second quarter this year.

The notion of builing a smarter planet at IBM rises out of the notion that in a resource-constrained, highly competitve business landscape that those companies that deliver a broad, inclusively effective vision will capture the mindshare of the public. Empowering local governments to enact smart traffic systems, health care networks to begin analytical patient care, and empower greener water distribution are among the goals of the IBM initiative. We salute these efforts to put the most humane branch of computer scicence to work, right now, in bettering our industries.

Our mission, in complimentary fashion, is to directly improve the interface between education and the labor economy, and balance every day the way individuals prepare to enter the economy. We seek to not merely place the graduating class, but to reach deeply into the student process to inform them, and allow industry to shape them according to their needs. We need not favor merely the local industries nor the elites, but to allow industry to collectively speak to students and help them be effective. This direct communication will inevitably bring about a smarter interface at the border of school and work, and make corporations what they must be.

We also know that if industry can directly shape graduates into what they need, both graduates and industry will benefit beyond what our current structures permit.

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About stefan bund

Founder of Next Acropolis. MS in Information Systems and Technology, Claremont Graduate University... Background in software engineering and teaching.
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