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After A Start At Dial-Up Speeds, Miami’s Tech Sector Gains Momentum

Eric Barton

At the height of the construction boom in 2006, Miami sprouted the second-fastest growing skyline in the world, behind Dubai. You could count over 70 cranes crowding each other out, like a tower of steel giraffes voraciously feeding on concrete.

Fast forward a year and a half later, the tower of cranes had stampeded out of town, leaving a trail of dark buildings as you drove past them on the highway at night. With so many vacant units available at a lower price in this sunny paradise, Miami seemed ideally poised to invite a new class of workers, a white-collared army of developers and entrepreneurs.

My overarching objective became to create a better city to live and work in by developing a vibrant tech and social media scene. Not only would this afford me the chance to meet interesting, like-minded people, I believed this would lead to digital job opportunities for myself and for others, and it did.

Miami was behind the curve. Even as the tech community was organizing itself at the grassroots level, the city elected to fund the obscenely priced Marlins stadium ($2.4 billion over 40 years). Contrast this with investment to build digital innovation in New York City and Las Vegas, as we learned from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, at the recent "StartupCity: Miami" conference last month. Even though our city officials were shortsighted about their role in spurring digital innovation, our grassroots tech community had also failed to hit their radar screen.

I was recently invited to speak at to speak at the #EngagementEra business networking and educational event about "Building Connected Communities.” Together with Daniel Lafuente, founder of LAB Miami, we explored how technology is now helping shape local communities, and in particular, in South Florida. We agreed that the game is very much still on. With the advent of a dozen new coworking locations, like the impressive LAB Miami in Wynwood and Pipeline in Brickell; the growth of our tech and social media meetups, including RefreshMiami and Social Media Club South Florida; and with the organizing skills

and funding benefaction of the Knight Foundation and the Miami DDA, we will hit our home run yet. By the way, the #EngagementEra event series is organized monthly in Wynwood by The Factory Interactive, a digital design and marketing agency, and we will continue this discussion there as well as at other local professional meetups.

In January of this year, the NY Tech Meetup Board of Directors published seven policy goals it would like to see the next mayor adopt to advance the future of New York, and the ideas are ones we could easily adopt here in Miami:

* Make New York City the most wired city on earth by providing every New Yorker and every New York business regardless of location access to the fastest broadband networks at the lowest cost.

* Reinvent the education system to allow every child, young adult, and all New Yorkers to develop the skills necessary to thrive in a 21st century economy.

* Make New York City the clear choice for entrepreneurs, software engineers, and other technically skilled professionals to start a business and build a career by making it easy to find partners, financing, office space and housing, employees, and access to markets.

* Support the appointment of a Deputy Mayor for Technology Innovation with an appropriate budget charged with the responsibility of reinventing New York City government with a 21st century framework.

* Make New York City’s system for civic participation the most open, transparent, accountable, participatory, and innovative in the world.

* Make New York City the most citizen-connected community on earth, where its people connect with each other to unleash a powerful 21st century economy: selling to each other, renting to each other, funding each other, sharing with each other, coworking with each other, meeting up with each other, and hiring each other.

* Support public policies that would ensure that technology and the opportunities available to the tech community can reach all New York’s citizens, and help solve issues related to healthcare, human rights and justice, gender equality, transportation, the environment, and other issues of fundamental importance to all New Yorkers.

This is an empowering vision, and yet there is nothing really specific about New York in these points. It's a good starting point to talk about our own digital future in South Florida.

Based in Miami, Alex de Carvalho has helped unite South Florida’s tech com­mu­nity by found­ing Social Media ClubBar­CampIgniteSocial Media Day and Mobile Mon­day events for South Florida new media pro­fes­sion­als. He is also a found­ing mem­ber of Refresh­Mi­ami. He has co-founded several startups and recently co-authored Secur­ing the Clicks: Net­work Secu­rity in the Age of Social Media. Connect with Alex on Twit­ter,@alexdc.