Article: Bridging the World’s Smart Cities and Smart Villages

DanWessnerBy: Dr. Dan Wessner, IEEE Smart Village

As the world’s cities strive in the next decades to live more efficiently and to somehow maintain or even improve standards of living while spreading resources among more city dwellers, might they have something to learn from their neighbors in the villages?

Reciprocal learning across both populations—together—calls for interdisciplinary and intercultural acumen and relations, empowering interconnected smart-city and smart-village residents, alike. IEEE Smart Village is building out precisely such an education platform. The idea is to define the good and smart things happening in the world’s smart villages and the good and smart things happening in the world’s smart cities, build links between these peoples that previously did not exist and provide a platform for innovation to flourish.

Teaching and Learning Together

 Since its organization in 2010, IEEE Smart Village (ieee-smart-village.org) has worked to empower off-grid communities through both development of sustainable local energy businesses that are owned and operated by local entrepreneurs and education. In cooperation with Regis University in Denver, Colorado, the IEEE Smart Village Development Practitioner Program launched in August 2015.

It’s a nine­ month program of study that includes five courses using push/pull, community-based global content from the IEEE Smart Village global classroom at the Posner Center for International Development in Denver. Every Monday night, a four-hour class gathers 24 students, a 50/50 mix of in-classroom participants and international distance-learning registrants. About a third are engineers; the other two-thirds are in development, health, education, agriculture, trafficking or some other practice.

Courses include “Models of Development Practice,” “Entry Points of Development,” “Skills for the Field,” “Going to Scale” and “Practicum,” which applies the lessons learned to the students’ specific development goals. “Engineering” isn’t anywhere in those course titles, but each of those courses has an engineering component as well as other disciplines, such as health, food and water security, anthropology, cultural linguistic knowledge, etc. In this way, the engineer is being drawn into a larger universe of cross-cutting skills and disciplines across different cultures and languages.

This initial IEEE Smart Village Development Practitioner Program pilot cohort is helping IEEE Smart Village test teaching methods. For example, one area of focus is trying to discern the right broadcast software and recording capabilities for replay and for further study and the right content to link these diverse realities so they can work on development solutions together. The goal is not to identify specific universal answers (e.g., here are practices that can foster sustainable living in every smart city and every smart village around the world); rather, IEEE Smart Village is looking for a universal process and teaching approach that diverse communities can apply to particular contexts.

In such ways, IEEE Smart Village’s education program is multi-directional and reciprocal across borders and barriers. Diverse communities in smart villages and smart cities teach and learn together, build case studies together, correct each other’s models together. And with a platform for sharing lessons learned and best practices, ideas begin to emerge.

For more information on the Master of Development Practice program, as offered by Regis University, visit www.regis.edu/mdp

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Dr. Dan Wessner, serves on the IEEE Smart Village board, and he works extensively among international NGOs committed to just and sustainable development. Dan is a focal point for IEEE Smart Village’s development of “Beyond the Light Bulb” educational opportunities in cooperation with international NGO partners through the Posner Center for International Development. This is an extension of Dan’s passion in education, stemming from his role as the chair and professor of politics at Regis University in Denver, Colorado.