Big Ideas

The Austin Idea Network, the social-action collective of tech leaders spawned by last year's 360.00 Summit, rolled out details of its first four projects at this year's event. They are:

Affordable Housing and Neighborhoods

The Network has "adopted" East Austin's Chestnut neighborhood and will, with the support of its corporate and individual sponsors, help Chestnut adopt items in its neighborhood plan, already approved by the city of Austin. Citywide, there are fewer details, but the idea is to "focus research, marketing, and fundraising activities to help increase the supply of affordable homes and apartments," and not turn into Silicon Valley. This work would "leverage" the city's own SMART Housing initiative.

Improve air quality and reduce traffic

This one has a straight-up measurable objective -- reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMTs) by 15% by 2003. That's a lot of cars off the road, although AMD, Intel, Motorola, Samsung, Solectron, and Vignette already have demand-reduction programs that this goal includes. The Network also wants to get tech companies using green power.

Increase access to technology

This is another simple goal: Get a computer into the home of every AISD student. The initiative, dubbed DigiKids, will start with equipment (laptops) and training for every seventh grader and their teachers, using and building on the Community Technology and Training Center programs already in place at Austin high schools.

Strengthen educational resources in East Austin

This is basically an adopt-a-school program for Huston-Tillotson College, seeking to connect H-T with tech leaders and people with money, increasing internship and job opportunities for Rams, and getting more computers onto campus.

These were the top ideas out of 10 contenders; the Network hired McKinsey and Co. to develop an organizational strategy and create criteria by which projects would be evaluated. Instead of donors, the Network has "founding investors," as befits a social-entrepreneurial enterprise. And the Network plans to use more than the check-writing muscle of its supporters; teams of techies will work alongside community leaders to make these projects happen. (This is, it appears, a big step for the industry.) Since the Network wants to "have a rapid, measurable impact," we'll know by next year whether it's doing good.

  • More of the Story

  • 360 Degrees of Separation

    The Austin 360 Summit returns sadder, and wiser, this year than it was in its two previous incarnations.

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