Moderated by Rick Badie
A half-day forum, “Georgia’s Digital Economy,” was hosted Monday by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and Google. A state education official and an Atlanta technology innovator participated in panel discussions. Today, they share their insights on the growing role of digital technology in our region’s economy and with virtual learning.
Atlanta is nation’s IT capital
By David Cummings
The digital economy is changing the world, and we’re just getting started. Companies are launched every day with just an idea and an Internet connection. Technology has affected nearly every area of business, and Georgia’s growth trajectory within the digital economy is very promising.
Georgia’s strong information security cluster has stood out for years. Our state continues to be among the top three in the U.S. for information security technology and is home to hundreds of such companies. More than 25 percent of the worldwide security revenue market share is generated by companies right here in our home state, according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
Yet Georgia’s success is not limited to information security. We have also become a leader in other digital and tech industries, most notably marketing software, health care information technology and mobile apps.
In 2011, Georgia Tech won a $1.65 million grant to support job growth and workforce training in health information technology. At the time of the award, nearly 250 companies were operating in Atlanta’s health IT cluster. Today, Atlanta is often referred to as the health IT capital of the nation. It is seeing continued rapid growth in this area, from large companies such as McKesson Technology Solutions to fast-growth start-ups like Digital Assent.
Atlanta’s marketing software cluster has also been receiving a lot of attention. Companies like MailChimp, Vitrue, Silverpop, What Counts, BLiNQ Media and Pardot have made a massive impact with innovative technology and large exits. Last year alone, three of these companies were acquired for $500 million total. The remaining three are easily worth more than $500 million. I’ve spent over a decade in marketing software, and I’m excited about its future and the way it will continue to shape Atlanta business.
In 2012, Georgia ranked fifth in the nation in mobile app industry employment, and online job postings in that sector increased substantially, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
AirWatch, an Atlanta-based mobile software company that is one of the largest in the field, has hired more than 1,000 employees in the past 12 months. In February, it raised $200 million in a Series A round of financing. AirWatch is helping put Atlanta on the map. This is only the beginning of the growth that we will see as Georgia becomes a leader in the mobile sector.
Communities around Georgia’s digital economy are growing and thriving. Late last year, I founded the Atlanta Tech Village in Buckhead with a commitment of $20 million to make it the best and largest tech entrepreneurship center in the Southeast. As the excitement around digital industries continues to grow, communities like Atlanta Tech Village, the Advanced Technology Development Center and Hypepotamus will foster innovation and talent that will continue to fuel Georgia’s digital economy.
David Cummings is founder of Atlanta tech Village in Midtown.
Technology delivers digital instruction
By Bob Swiggum
Digital education is the use of technology to deliver instruction. Technology allows teachers to shift away from requiring all students to learn at the same pace and with the same style. Every one of us has been in a classroom, frustrated by the fact that some of our classmates seem to understand a topic with ease as we struggle with the concept. Many of us also have had the experience of easily understanding a concept while some classmates lagged behind.
For me, it was math. The abstract nature of ninth-grade algebra was mystifying to me, but along came 10th-grade geometry. I outpaced my classmates.
Teachers simply don’t have the time or resources to customize education for every student. That’s why Georgia has invested in creating a statewide Longitudinal Data System and an array of virtual classes to help teachers serve our students.
It was built by the Georgia Department of Education and implemented in 2011. This system provides teachers with the ability to understand the strengths and weaknesses of students so they can determine each child’s learning style with the click of a mouse.
No more waiting for students’ paper files to be delivered from another district, or having to spend hours learning each child’s academic history. Now teachers have their students’ academic histories at their fingertips and can access a set of digital resources aligned to the state’s academic standards. Those resources can be assigned to students to allow them to progress at their own pace.
More than 70,000 teachers have been trained to use the system. We are working to reach every teacher in the state. Few states have developed and implemented these types of tools at the state level. The Longitudinal Data System gives classroom teachers the tools to deliver personalized learning for each of their students. Teachers can now use the hours previously spent in a school’s transcript vault to develop innovative lesson plans and brush up on teaching techniques.
Georgia has three full-time virtual schools and several part-time virtual schools that students and parents can use to supplement classroom work. One of the part-time schools is the Georgia Virtual School operated by the state education department. It has more than 130 courses for middle and high school students.
Since all the courses were developed by the department, we also make these resources available to our classroom teachers via the Longitudinal Data System portal. Teachers can access digital content instantly to help supplement classroom instruction. The Georgia Virtual School is the fifth-largest state virtual school in the nation, with more than 17,000 students taking courses last year. Find out more at gavirtualschool.org.
Bob Swiggum is chief information officer for the state Department of Education.