Bold, Audacious, and Ultra-Broadband
Case Western’s CIO Lev Gonick leads his region’s OneCleveland project into
Gonick on the OneCleveland concept:
"I was thinking about how we could make
a bold, audacious, IT-informed effort
with the objective of community transformation."
Prior to coming on board as Case Western Reserve University
(OH) CIO and VP for IT Services, Lev Gonick’s distinguished career in higher
ed IT has included posts at Cal State University-Monterey Bay
and Cal Polytechnic State University. He has written, taught,
and thought about learning infrastructure, networking, and campus technology
integration for two decades, and his professional activities have included national
and international technology initiatives. Gonick’s current thinking on university
and civic technology leadership has most recently spawned OneCleveland, a university-city
project that leverages advanced IT to achieve community priorities.
About OneCleveland: When you began as VP for IT services and CIO at
Case four years ago, did you already have thoughts of developing a city-wide
or regional broadband network? I was attracted to Case because of the
remarkable coalescence of higher education, health care, cultural, and arts
institutions in the city. As I was discussing the possibility of moving from
California to Ohio, I outlined a stream-of-consciousness thought process about
the way in which a great university can leverage its core competency in information
technology to help other institutions like museums and hospitals evolve together
into something new, exciting, and maybe not yet fully understood.
Was Cleveland open to your ideas? Yes; there had been early
collaboration in the University Circle area of Cleveland, in terms of connecting
with fiber optics. I wanted to extend that to a broader region and, in some
ways, redefine the relationship between the university and the broader community.
You have many partners in OneCleveland. Which institutions first came to mind?
The Cleveland Clinic, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Symphony, the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—all of those and others were included in the early
thinking about the relationship between Case and what has evolved into the OneCleveland
project for which we’ve developed an ultra-broadband network-and-applications
What was the driving force behind the efforts? It was a community
transformation agenda articulated by the then-new president of the university,
Edward Hundert, and the mayor of the city, Jane Campbell, during about the same
time frame that I was thinking about how we could make a bold, audacious, IT-informed
effort with the objective of community transformation. Our insight at Case was
to use the IT infrastructure as an undergirding and binding force: We wanted
to connect organizations and institutions that had historically been sil'ed,
and, physically, significantly disconnected from one another.
And how has OneCleveland evolved from all that?
have a three-legged stool: connecting, enabling, and transforming. The “connecting”
part was very readily doable here in Cleveland because there was an abundance
of dark [unutilized] fiber available. It was just a matter of creating a business
case for lighting it up. More challenging over the last couple of years have
been the other two legs.
What about “enabling” and “transforming”? “Enabling” turns
out to be our focus on a series of applications that use the network in a fashion
such that if the network didn’t exist, the service or offering really couldn’t
be delivered. For example, our OneCleveland subscribers successfully wrote a
grant application for curatorial presentations by the Cleveland Museum of Art
staff, through the 23 libraries in the Cuyahoga Public Library System, using
advanced, high-definition videoconferencing. The grant proposal wouldn’t have
been possible without OneCleveland. That’s an example of reinventing the public
library to become, among other things, an annex for the world’s great museums.
The result is “transformative.” So, OneCleveland is much more than what it’s
often identified with—an extension of your wireless network. It is much broader
than just an extension of a technical infrastructure; it’s a platform for innovation.
Could you tell us about the technology components of OneCleveland?
Sure. All the subscriber institutions on the OneCleveland supercampus connect
to each other using advanced fiberoptic switching at 1-gigabit—and we also provide
up to a 1-gigabit access to the Internet among three classes of users, with
the smallest getting 10 megabits per second. Each of the organizations connected
by fiber also has a wireless canopy over its campus and in the immediate neighborhood.
Those wireless services are architected to connect with one another, creating
a virtual meshed canopy over much of the region—enabling the free guest access
you hear about.
Are you working on any high-end video applications? We’ve
very recently soft-launched a service with our colleagues at CampusEAI—which
is to prototype, working with a number of commercial television broadcasters,
a high-definition video-over-IP network. The Fall 2005 incoming students will
experience multiple channels, including interactive video services for everything
from virtual office hours and working with librarians, to health care and a
host of other things.
Who are some of the OneCleveland development and vendor partners?
In the last year and recently, our efforts have been on development of applications
that the university in part helped to facilitate, working with major corporate
partners. Cisco, Intel, IBM, Sprint, Polycom, and others—now including Sun Microsystems—have
taken an investment position in OneCleveland through the delivery of goods and
services that enable application development.
OneCleveland is an outstanding example of leadership on the part of
a higher education institution, isn’t it? Yes, it’s a good example
of community leadership and service, and an informed one. As our president likes
to say, a university can remain a healthy and great institution only to the
extent that the city within which it lives and works is healthy and great.
OneCleveland seems to be the model for others. How will you help other
“Ones”? We’re committed to creating a consortium; an institute for
digital cities here at Case, as an umbrella for the many cities that we are
involved with, or who have independently developed their own university-city
What are the future challenges and opportunities? The number
one challenge is governance. OneCleveland is a big tent, and we’ve invited in
as many folks as we can. Finding a compelling reason for them to stay in, while
bringing others in, represents predictable yet significant challenges. As we
move forward, we need to create a broad sense of consensus flexible enough to
account for the autonomy of the organizations involved. Beyond that, over the
next year we’ll be involved in significant development of a series of applications
that demonstrate the value of our ultra-broadband and wireless infrastructure;
our success will be measured against them. Our goal is to show success that
extends beyond the “connect.” Reducing the cost of connecting is important,
but it’s not transformative. We want to stand on that “transformation” leg of