- Executive Summary
The most important issue for the future economy of Nebraska and the Great Plains is this:
How will regions outside the nation's largest information technology centers participate
in the new information-age economy?
The University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) proposes the Great Plains Software Technology
Initiative to provide leadership in building the foundations for a competitive software
in the Great Plains region. UNL requests an appropriation of $6M over a
three-year period to establish software development research, education, and technology
outreach programs targeting regions at risk of being marginalized in the new economy.
A new economy is emerging from the revolution in information technology. The President's
Information and Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) noted that the information technology
(IT) industry is already $700B in the US economy and accounted for a third of the economic
growth in the previous decade. Estimates link 60% of recent economic growth to information
technology and related productivity gains. Forecasts place computer and information
science and engineering at the root of much of the job creation and wealth development
in the next decade
Regions such as Nebraska and the
other Great Plains states risk missing out on the benefits
of the new economy. Most of the growth has occurred within the nation's largest
information technology centers. Nebraska and other Great Plains states constitute half
of the bottom ten on the Milken Institute New Economy Index, ranking particularly low in
measures of new business ventures. A recent survey of UNL graduates in computer science
and engineering indicated that over half left Nebraska after graduation, with more than 70%
of those indicating they left because of better job opportunities outside the state [UNL].
Software is the "new physical infrastructure of the information age"
Information Technology Research: Investing in Our Future. Available at
http://www.ccic.gov/ac/report/, 1999) [PITAC] and will drive the nation's new economy.
However, there are important problems with current software development technologies and
limitations that impede wider regional participation in the industry. Compounding these
problems, next-generation software, built on Internet and other network-based
architectures, will be more complex, more difficult to manage, and larger in scale than
today's software. The Great Plains and other such regions risk limited growth in the new
economy without appropriate software development technologies and a workforce educated in
these technologies. New tools and methods are critically needed to enhance the
participation of Nebraska and the Great Plains in the software industry and the new
- Requested Action
UNL proposes the Great Plains Software Technology Initiative to lead the development
and dissemination of technologies to promote and advance the regional software industry.
As case studies of successful "smart communities" clearly demonstrate, a research
university is an important core element of the foundation for developing a vibrant and
innovative software industry. The Initiative will work with a consortium of university,
industry, and government, to accelerate economic development of software related
industries in the region with three main missions.
- Economic Development. The Initiative will stimulate economic development in the
region by providing innovative solutions needed to compete in the national and international
marketplace. Economic development will be enhanced by: (a) attracting new software
development and IT companies eager to take advantage of the University's expertise and the
pool of potential excellent employees, (b) identifying technologies with commercial
potential, (c) providing visibility to existing software development and IT companies, (d)
sharing development costs for solutions that can be used to stimulate growth among
consortium members, and (e) facilitating the exchange of successful tools and methodologies
amortizing the learning cost of their use and implementation.
- Education and Training. A major emphasis of the Initiative will be to help stem the
region's "brain drain" of good students leaving the state. Students will be provided with
challenging internships during their education to facilitate the transition to regional
industry, and matched to high-paying and stimulating jobs in the region. The Initiative
also will provide continuing education through classes and seminars that train IT workers
in this rapidly changing field. The prestigious JD Edwards Honors Program (JDEHP) already
is aligned to support this educational effort.
- Research and Technology Transfer. The Initiative will help bridge the needs of
industry with University researchers capable of creating state-of-the-art solutions.
Efforts will focus on software development methodologies and tools that accelerate the
development cycle and improve software quality. For example, new techniques will be
developed for handling server overload, improving web performance, and providing an edge
for the regional e-businesses. Another example is the creation of software components that
serve as building blocks that can be reused by the regional industry to produce larger
systems, leading to shorter time to market. The Initiative will provide initial seed funds
to stimulate the collaboration process and to transfer the most promising technologies to
the local industry. It will also host a repository of tools, methods, and case studies for
consortium members to use.
Government funding is required to establish the Initiative. Industry is unable to invest
in broad-based and long-range solutions capable of promoting increased economic viability
for the region as a whole. Without additional funding, University-based research
currently lacks the resources to address these problems in the necessary scale. Initial
government "seed" funds will be used to establish a track record, after which industry
funding will play a larger role.
- Institutional Uniqueness.
This initiative builds on strengths at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln (UNL),
especially faculty expertise and an innovative educational program in computer science and
UNL conducts leading research in the areas of component software technology, knowledge
management in software engineering, software quality, and distributed software systems.
Faculty members at UNL are developing component-based technologies and knowledge management
techniques for developing better software faster. The researchers use empirical approaches
to software quality issues in order to find the most efficient testing methods at
different phases of the development lifecycle. Research at UNL is developing new
Internet-based software architectures with scalable network server-clusters that distribute
to improve web application performance. These research activities span various disciplinary
areas to improve software development tools and methods for the next-generation software
applications and will have a direct impact when transferred to the regional economy.
The Initiative will complement the JD Edwards Honors Program (JDEHP) in Computer Science
and Business, established at UNL through an ongoing multi-million dollar donation by the
CEO of a major software developer company. The JDEHP integrates computer science and
business curriculums to educate students in technologies that are fast becoming the
building blocks for the new economy. The integrated approach emphasizes entrepreneurship
and leadership and features an innovative Software Design Studio, in which students work on
projects with industry customers. The Great Plains Software Technology Initiative will
build on the JDEHP with stronger ties between universities, industry, and government.
The ability to develop complex software systems is critical to the future development of
the new information-based economy. The crucial need to improve software development tools
and methods is particularly acute in regions such as Nebraska and neighboring states,
which have an underdeveloped software industry. The Great Plains Software Technology
Initiative aims to lead accelerated development of software related industries in the
region and so enhance State and regional participation in the new economy.