Building a Robust NJ Research Network

NJ Universities Step Up Digital Connectivity

“Digital transformation” was the theme of EdgeCon2019, a gathering of CIOs (chief information officers) and other leaders from New Jersey higher education institutions, as well as from public school boards and healthcare organizations. The event was hosted by NJEdge, New Jersey’s nonprofit Research & Education Network (REN).

“The mission and vision of NJEdge is to become a tech solutions center that levels the playing field for New Jersey’s public entities,” asserts Dr. Samuel Conn, the organization’s President and CEO. The organization seeks to serve the tech needs of universities, schools, and libraries “through public-private partnerships, federal assistance, and software services.”

NJEdge is building what it calls an “Eastern Research Network” in partnership with regional RENs, which seeks to create an open online environment for New Jersey researchers to collect and share their work and computing resources in the Internet2 space. “Research As A Service,” Conn calls it, adapting the slogan “Software As A Service (SAAS)” used to brand cloud-based digital solutions. “More and more public institutions are moving to the cloud for services such as secure data centers.”

As hard as it is to make predictions of digital trends, one of the keynote speakers at EdgeCon tried to do just that. Shivvy Jervis - who styles herself as a futurist and advocate of digital transformation - listed a number of ongoing experiments, ranging from the human-centered efforts of Brisbane, NZ to “upskill” its citizens’ “digital IQ”, to the slightly creepy “emotive AI” research into using cameras and computers to determine a person’s state of mind based on visual and audio cues.

NJ Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Beth Simone Noveck

NJ Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Beth Simone Noveck

New Jersey’s first Chief Innovation Officer, Dr. Beth Simone Noveck, urged the state’s IT leaders to be on guard against uneven access to technological tools. In her keynote address, Noveck spoke of progress as a “double-edged sword” and cited “climate uncertainties” as a top priority and societal challenge.

Dr. Noveck used the term “collective intelligence,” to mean digital collaboration through networked organizations, which is becoming an increasingly common approach to social problems. She referenced Wikipedia, and smaller-scale projects such as participatory budgeting experiments in New York City as successful applications of digital collaboration. In Novack’s view, digital networking can “generate excitement about government and problem-solving.” And she hinted that we should be on the lookout for some sort of “collective intelligence” to be leveraged and implemented in New Jersey in the near future.

EdgeCon positions itself as a networking and informational opportunity for those who implement New Jersey’s public institutions’ technology solutions. For the non-technical, it is like a stroll through the land of codespeak, with glimpses of digital solutions still under development. Even if you’re wary of adopting these technologies, you should know they’re coming soon.

Donna LiuComment