The Juneau Economic Development Council hosted its annual Innovation Summit this week.
The keynote speakers on Wednesday spoke about the future of Alaska — its projected tourism growth and the future of self-sufficiency involving 3D printing labs.
“You have a long history in Alaska of self-sufficiency,” said Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, one keynote speaker of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. “How much could it be enhanced by digital fabrication technologies?”
He said the world is going through a digital fabrication revolution, and opportunities for people to digitally print and create their own goods will become more prevalent in the future.
People will be locally more self-sufficient but globally more connected. A lot of this will depend on access to power and internet.
“I’m not saying this is the end of commerce — it will be a blend,” he said. “It’s easier to shape technologies early on than later when the effects become deeply embedded in society.”
Another keynote speaker, Ásta Kristín Sigurjónsdóttiris, a tourism manager from Iceland, shared insights into the drivers of Iceland’s rapid tourism growth, managing community impacts and dealing with workforce and other challenges.
“What is really important is to keep the locals with you,” she said, noting there’s no secret formula for increasing tourism.
She said tourism is now the largest revenue-generating industry in Iceland. Their biggest industry before was fishing.
“Tourism is teaching the locals to appreciate what they have,” she said. “We are not yet ruining the nature, or doing something that we cannot take back. But it is unbalanced in a way because so many people are located in small areas that we need to distribute the tourists and build up more infrastructure to make it easier for them to travel further away.”
The Innovation Summit also featured a pitch contest on Wednesday night, and continued with more learning sessions on Thursday.
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