UniteWNC – Power of Technology
in Community

Technology, in the form of smartphones, surveillance systems, smart cars, apps, and artificial intelligence, increasingly permeates every aspect of our personal and professional lives. We can unplug and hit the trails but we will always plug back in. Thus, many in the WNC community wonder: how can we harness the power of technology to benefit our local communities and businesses? In other words, how can we ensure that the digital revolution elevates WNC?

Tracy Schmidt had been dreaming of a way to gather the community together to answer these questions for many years. “There is so much good energy and so many people on a similar wavelength here in WNC. I know our community understands win/wins. We want to collaborate and help each other succeed,” she said. Schmidt, a Senior Program Manager at By Light Professional IT Services, has lived in Asheville with her family since 2004. She is tall and gracious with curly brown hair and a deliberate disposition. Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, her subtle southern charm and the finely tuned management skills acquired while studying organizational development and public policy position her in a unique way to lead this effort.

Last year, Schmidt connected with Asheville residents and social entrepreneurs, Steve Cooperman and Cheri Torres, to begin laying the foundation for applying an organizational development process called “Appreciative Inquiry” to help the community discover and heighten positive potential around technology. Last spring at the US Cellular Center, the two brought together a consortium of volunteers to organize the Unite WNC: Designing our Digital Future Summit.

Out of the Spring Summit arose nine initiatives, one of which was the establishment of UniteWNC as a permanent, adaptive regional alliance, whose mission is to cultivate a thriving region by developing a collaborative technological and social infrastructure that empowers our communities while enhancing quality of life. Its membership is free and open for all to join. About 30 members recently participated in a Fall Retreat on November 10 focused on team building and planning, while continuing to work on initiatives that benefit our community.

The Silver to Gold initiative, led by Marc Czarniecki, is collaborating with Land of Sky Regional Council and other local organizations to hold a “hackathon” in January – where the community will come together to build solutions to the transportation challenges seniors face in WNC. Another initiative that will have a major impact on our community is the Internet for All Initiative; Michael Moody of BloomIP and Anwar Timol of OgreCloud are working toward a goal of providing Internet for all, even those in the farthest hollers.

UniteWNC’s strategic initiatives focus on the need to involve every WNC county, every resident across the mountains, every learning level, every gender, every race, every age, and every socioeconomic status. Participant Eric Willeke expressed it succinctly by articulating his desire to, “Truly close the digital divide. Knowing that change is inevitable, our only choice becomes learning how to navigate it. Those without digital fluency will increasingly struggle to remain relevant in an increasingly digital world.” Schmidt is leading UniteWNC to do just that!

Kristy Lapidus is a co-organizer of UniteWNC and founder of Corvo Consulting Group, a business and technology management consulting firm specializing in digital transformations that improve and automate business processes. She moved to Hendersonville from Chicago in 2013 and lives happily in the mountains with her husband. You can reach her at Kristy@ccgroup.io or through her firm’s web site.

Meet Up!
UniteWNC monthly meetings are held at Immedion in the Biltmore Park Technology Center. For details and other events, check out the calendar at UniteWNC.io/calendar.

Written by Kristy Lapidus