May 13th, 2016
People often focus on roads, sewer and water when they seriously talk about the growth of Greenville.
Those three basic backbones of infrastructure need constant attention for us to maintain our great quality of life here. The opportunities we have, and the opportunities we want to have, depend heavily on the presence and reliability of these three. However, for Greenville to become the community it can be in the future, we are missing a new, large part of the equation if we talk just about those three building blocks of infrastructure. We need to be talking about the fourth block.
That is properly using technology to help us grow.
A better technology grid as well as smarter use of technology by local governments will allow us to improve our quality of life and our quality of growth. Technology such as better apps, better linkage through using real-time data and better access will help us transform our communities into something much more useful and appealing.
The rate of change in technology is simply mind-blowing. It wasn’t that long ago that an analog bag phone was all the rage, and we didn’t have texting as a communication medium. Now in the palm of my hand I have more computing power than NASA had in the Apollo missions. I can communicate across the globe via email, text, phone, social media and even video with a device that can run for 12 hours on a single charge. When I started my career in technology almost 20 years ago, a cell phone was a costly luxury, whereas today having a smartphone is an assumption.
Consider this: How much better would it be for a person driving from downtown Greenville to the Golden Strip to learn in real time in their cars what traffic delays are happening, what events are going on nearby and if there is bad weather ahead? The technology to do this exists. It is just a matter of when will we as a community want to invest in it.
I say when because it will happen, but Greenville needs to be on the cutting edge. For the past two years, I have read study after study talking about how to best draw millennials, new business, venture capitalists and the like to Greenville. Almost all of those studies have talked about things such as quality of life, and in that case they are talking about technology access.
Greenville needs to invest in technology in order to entice new business and new ideas. People want to move here and feel they are in a connected community. This is done in today’s world through technology. If you look at the communities that are growing fastest in the country, they are all heavily connected.
The success of Greenville County has not happened by accident. Visionaries and community leaders have positioned Greenville for success over the years and our once sleepy Southern community has grown into an economic powerhouse. I am not suggesting there have not been bumps in the road along the way, but we have succeeded where others have failed, and there is no end in sight for our continued growth. With growth, however, comes some pain, and without proper planning we could become the victims of our own success.
To remain on the cutting edge, we have to give more consideration to technology infrastructure. To stay competitive as a community we have to be connected, but that requires an infrastructure that many of us simply overlook. We can no longer have discussions about the quality of life in our community without giving some consideration to technology. If we are going to continue to grow, draw investment dollars, recruit new businesses and create jobs, we have to invest in the infrastructure that allows technology to thrive.
Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we are a technology-driven society, and Greenville needs to stay on the front line.