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Connected Intelligence: Origins

Funchal, capital of the Autonomous Region of Madeira (Portugal), was founded in 1421 and is located on the southern shore of Madeira, the largest of a group of volcanic islands lying 1100 kilometers south west of Lisbon. Madeira has a population of approx. 250,000. Its economy is heavily focused on tourism...

Connected Intelligence networks are not dependent on technology but are certainly most easily demonstrated by pointing to the Internet and the World Wide Web. With its formidable linking ability, the Web is a forum for real-time interactivity between tens, hundreds, thousands of people with like objectives. The effect of many minds focusing on the same issues and the self-organizing characteristics of non-hierarchical networks combine to create a potential for a great unity of purpose and a powerful, if often unpredictable, ability to produce new and better results. This expansive unpredictability engenders the possibility of better answers to common problems, better solutions to common needs. de Kerckhove, Derrick. Connected Intelligence: The Arrival of the Web Society.

In 1998, Professor Derrick de Kerckhove, director of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, was invited by the Madeira Tecnopolo to conduct a series of Connected Intelligence Workshops. The purpose of the workshops was to brainstorm ideas and projects that could be implemented in order to accelerate Madeira’s achievement of the goals presented in the European Union's White Paper on Education and Training - Teaching and Learning - Towards the Learning Society as well as the Green Paper on Innovation. Professor de Kerckhove invited Brian Alger to participate in these workshops that focused on how Connected Intelligence Networks could be used in education with the purpose of better preparing teachers and students for the Information Society.

As a result of these Connected Intelligence workshops, Professor de Kerckhove partnered with Brian Alger in order to combine efforts on designing the principles of Connected Intelligence into a systematic program to transform the education system of Madeira. Brian was asked by KPMG Canada to:

  1. transform the principles of Connected Intelligence: The Arrival of Web Society into concrete and practical methodology for learning that would align the Madeiran education system with the European Union's vision of an Information Society;
  2. research, present and secure a contract with the Madeiran Government based on a feasibility study that inquired into the potential for developing a business entity that would provide Connected Intelligence programs in Madeira;
  3. design, implement, manage and evaluate a network learning environment that would be systematically integrated throughout the education system - this program came to be known as Connected Intelligence Training and Development (CITD); and
  4. extend CITD out into the European Union.

Why Madeira?

What is the rationale for leveraging Connected Intelligence Networks in Madeira? There were a number of factors that made Madeira an excellent environment for the CITD Program:

  1. The Autonomous Region of Madeira has all the conditions and advantages for becoming, in time, a base par excellence for the export of digital content at the national and European levels. A rich culture, with tradition and proven creative talent.

  2. An international perspective, reinforced by the geo-strategic role of Madeira, past and present, in relation to pertinent Atlantic markets.

  3. Madeira is a telecommunications node in the Atlantic – underwater fibre optic cables (Columbus, Eurafrica, Salt II and Atlantic Alliance); the first interactive cable network to operate in Portugal; extensive satellite coverage (Intelsat, Eutelsat and Astra).

The Information Society Initiative of the European Union

The Regional Government of Madeira has also stated three strategic objectives for the region in the document InfoMadeira 2006:
  1. Develop, explore and facilitate the access to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the Autonomous Region of Madeira.

  2. Lead the Autonomous Region of Madeira as a national and community pilot region into the Information Era.

  3. Create and develop a platform of content that will promote and place the Autonomous Region of Madeira on the map internationally, in the domains of education, tourism, entertainment, culture and electronic commerce.
In simple terms, the purpose of the program was to leverage Connected Intelligence to help Madeira meet their own stated needs and goals. CITD was respectful, completely customized and highly sensitive to the existing cultural and economic surround.

New Beginnings

As a result of the feasibility study, KPMG Canada and the Regional Government of Madeira entered into a contractual agreement for the creation and delivery of CITD in the Madeiran education system.

In February 1999, the CITD Program was officially launched during an opening workshop that took place at the Smart Toronto facilities in Toronto, Canada. This was the first official meeting of the ten trainers that had been seconded out of the Madeiran education system. While starting in the middle of the school year posed a number of risk management issues, it was in the end deemed better to get the program moving as quickly as possible. In addition, we were also quickly attempting to ready the CITD Innovation Centre (then called the CITD Lab).

The goal of this initial start-up (February 1999 through July 1999) was to begin experimenting with and building the organizational framework and implementation model for the program. After six intense months, a CITD Showcase was held in July of that year and successfully presented three Connected Intelligence Network Learning Projects. The showcase was attended by politicians, business professionals, academics, the media, parents, students and teachers. The CITD Program had dramatically surpassed expectations for project development in an extremely short period of time.

The first full year of implementation was September 1999 through July 2000. This year was designated as “experimental” since it was the first time the program would operate fora full year. A number of opportunities and challenges presented themselves in this year that provided valuable insights for the program. Again, a CITD Showcase was held in July of 2000 that provided a superb presentation of the five CI NLPs that were developed in that year.

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