Detroit’s bankruptcy took up plenty of space in the media over the past couple of weeks. It made me wonder what type of outside-the-box thinking policy makers employed in figuring out how to bring more revenue into the city.
I’ve also been doing a little thinking about the knowledge economy, specifically how a city can take advantage of the intellectual capital of its residents and provide the world access to that capital while bringing in additional tax revenues. That would call for increases in incomes received by the possessors of intellectual capital.
Experts face two dilemmas. First, they need to be found by people seeking knowledge. They have to be made available. The second dilemma is what they have to share must have a certain level scarcity. In other words if a large number of people already possess the information held by the expert, the value of the information decreases.
There may be a way to resolve both dilemmas using broadband. Broadband access makes easy finding a group of experts. Rather than having to visit the websites of various think tanks, university academic departments, and consultancy offices, a city could create an online intellectual property depot or exchange. Using some program or algorithm, experts can be displayed under certain categories of expertise, side by side, displaying their names, credentials, years of experience, and appointment times for in-person, telephone, or on-line consults.
Here is where the scarcity comes in. The consultant may list on the exchange two main products. First she may list her appointment times where she invites bids for certain slots. The starting bids for each slot increases based on the opportunity costs of meeting with someone during the slot. For example, maybe the consultant prefers working out from 11 am to 1 pm so to ensure that window stays open, she increases the starting bid for that slot.
Another way to create scarcity would be to provide licenses for the one-time and non-exclusive use of patent or copyrighted material owned by individuals, businesses, or universities. This is already being done by The Intellectual Property Exchange International, a trading platform located in Chicago where patents are placed in unit license rights contracts and sold in primary or secondary markets as financial instruments. The concept appears relatively new and there may be more room for entry into the exchange business.
Between Georgia Tech, Emory, Georgia State, Morehouse and Clark Atlanta, there are plenty of professors with consultancies or holding patents that could probably do with the exposure.
About two years ago I participated on a panel during a conference of the National Association of Black Mayors. In describing broadband and its benefits to cities, I argued that cities should act like harbors within the stream of electronic commerce. The knowledge economy is seeing an increasing exchange of intellectual capital, capital needed to address a myriad of problems across the globe. A city that can showcase its intellectual property by making its holders available in that stream is bound to attract more talent and increase its tax revenues garnered from the increasing output that talent can generate.