Last week I was fortunate enough to sit on a panel at the NAACP Leadership 500 conference. The panel was about social media and the ways that the chapters of the NAACP could more effectively use social media in their advocacy efforts. I was happy to see that they were interested in exploring social media as a tool to engage people in their causes. The conversation covered a multitude of areas within social media, but the overarching theme was this: how could the NAACP put plans in place to educate themselves and employ social media tools as a tactic for community development and social mobilization?
As we heard about the various tasks the NAACP was undertaking in the areas of health, education, empowerment, and social justice, it was easy to see how the prospect of a wholesale shift to an integrated use of social media could seem overwhelming. My suggestion to the group was simple: take an "agile" approach to tackling the issue of Internet inclusion in their many efforts.
"Agile" refers to software development methodology where work is broken up into weekly sprints and the team involved in product implementation communicates daily in short "stand-up" sessions to keep everyone up to date. What happens in this process is that goals are achieved and visible results are accomplished at the end of each week, and after a few weeks what seemed like a huge project before has been pushed forward.
In thinking about this, I also realized that agility, or the lack thereof, is another reason why the FCC is not best positioned to regulate broadband under Title II. The FCC has laid out an ambitious National Broadband Plan to push the universal adoption of broadband over the course of the next several years. Yet at the same time, the Commission is being distracted by efforts to develop new ways to regulate the Internet. Actual implementation of the National Broadband Plan requires numerous conversations and debates before any progress is made.
Meanwhile, companies are moving the Internet in new directions, in an agile way, and showing tangible results the likes of which the FCC is perhaps not yet ready to quantify and characterize under its proposed new scheme of regulation. It's hard to regulate and provide oversight of a moving target without defining damaging parameters that could compromise the growth of the object or industry in question.
The agile approach has brought us sites like Twitter, Facebook, and thousands of other innovations of the Internet age. If the FCC were "agile" in its approach, it would first focus on tackling problems the result of which would be tangible results in the short term, like adoption, digital literacy and entrepreneurial education. Until the Commission can demonstrate tangible gains on short-term challenges, I would hope that they carefully consider how to approach the longer-term issues.
I hope the members of the NAACP walked away from the conference with an appreciation for results that can be yielded by the agile approach, and that the FCC gets agile or at least does not stand in the way of progress.