Digital Dollars

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

Bob Swiggum is chief information officer for the state Department of Education.

10 comments Add your comment


September 18th, 2013
7:20 pm

Woody @ 7:10 pm – Why am I not surprised. There are plenty more surprises like that and MORE. If this plan is to continue as it reads above.


September 18th, 2013
7:10 pm

Be very careful about taking a course with Georgia Virtual School. After my daughter registered for one of their courses, we came to find out that it was not being taught by a teacher who is certified in that field.

Jack ®

September 18th, 2013
5:51 pm

My granddaughter is in a theme school 7th grade reading on a 12th grade level. She’s been invited by Duke University to take part in a SAT or ACT exam for reading comprehension. She gets her assignments on a small electronic note pad. I’m not sure if how she turns in her assignments…that’s a little above my digital expertise. But I know she made the highest attainable grade in reading comprehension during her 6th grade CRCT exam. So, with the white board teachers use and the students using electronic devices, I’m convinced the IT is here to stay and more changes are on the way.

David Williams

September 18th, 2013
4:03 pm

The sate needs to offer incentives in these cluster areas to encourage entrepreneurship and recruitment of talent, similar to what it does for the film industry which is going gang busters too.


September 18th, 2013
11:17 am

The digital revolution will come to a giant halt unless entrepreneurs do something quickly to protect the rest of us from the growing police state and the criminal behavior of the Federal and State governments with regards to electronic privacy. Of course most large companies in the industry are co-conspirators in these crimes (a few against their will – but only a few). Demands by our state legislature of our representatives, laws passed by our state legislature to block Federal activities in our state, and the replacement of our currently suppliant and compliant worthless Senators and Congresscritters would go a long way to creating the kind of healthy, respected environment both at the state and national level that will encourage more to see us as the right place to expand this segment of the industry.

I’m not holding my breath. Too many are more concerned with how their college/NFL teams are doing or who got voted off the island last week to actually care about their rights, liberties, or freedom.

Whirled Peas

September 18th, 2013
8:14 am

Most of the private economy has long ago accepted and been improved by the internet.
The education establishment pretty much has a monopoly and has been slow to adopt new methods. But it will. Bob Swiggum above has been speaking mostly of high school education. But in the end the electronic world will make brick and mortar colleges obsolete and make tens of thousands of professors obsolete. It should also reduce the price of a good college education. Today there is a lot of snootyness in the upper education ranks. They are not going to be happy about standing in the unemployment line.
And geeks will inherit the earth.


September 17th, 2013
9:22 pm

The State of GEORGIA has NEVER been Progressive on anything. Slavery, Automation, Civil rights, Social Issues, Healthcare, Federal spending, and especially on EDUCATION.

Now we are being told this planned change is being considered for implementation. Something is very Fishy going on here. You can bet, there is a LOT of money being exchanged and palms being greased behind closed doors and prying eyes.

Tony Geinzer

September 17th, 2013
7:21 pm

I still think, education is a full time brick and mortar job. I don’t thing going online to do an offline education is any ideal because it is 300 Thousand Percent Personal and either if someone is doing right, more power, but if folks are kickballing around their sweet time that could be used to help a College Freshman get beyond the 1st Semester of College, than that’s another game entirely when we reward folks for being lazy because they could.


September 17th, 2013
5:23 pm

Georgia is in No way READY or PREPARED to implement such a change and introduction. Give it some time and let other STATES prove its VALUE. The thinking here is give it to the DUMMIES in GEORGIA first. Let them work out all of the bugs and protocols for the other STATES. By then we will have a perfected product.

No Thank-you….Go and see Mississippi!


September 17th, 2013
5:05 pm

On-Line learning is a great tool especially for adult education. Not only does it allow people to learn at their own pace, but it provides flexibility to busy schedules. However, we need to be sure these companies are not simply providing dubious credentials and little actual education. The contract between a private education provider and the student is a personal matter, however if public funds are used we need to assure proper oversight.