Communications and technology
The Internet was born in Cambridge: we've been wired around here. In the coming years, look for our wired city to finally go wireless. "Boston's getting huge for mobile," says Peekaboo Mobile founder Ben Dolgoff, whose start-up service uses GPS to avail food and shopping discounts on the fly. "It's amazing how much we've all done in the past year alone." He's not kidding; there are more than 200 mobile companies headquartered in the area, including the Cambridge-based SCVNGR, biting at FourSquare's heels, and CheXout and Fig Card, which are turning cell phones into debit cards.
For its part, the city is enabling programmers to manipulate public information. Thanks to the availability of MBTA GPS coordinates, riders can now track most trains and buses with the Catch the T iPhone app, while with Citizens Connect 2.0, iPhone and Android users can report things like late trash removal directly from their handheld devices. And Dan Zarrella, a local social-media and marketing wiz who guides the Citizens' Committee on Boston's Future on tech issues, plans to help launch a contest for developers to power practical mobile apps with city info. "The possibilities are endless," says Zarrella.
Government and politics
Even in the future, everything will still hedge on politics. It's anyone's guess where power will shift if and when the juice leaves Menino's Hyde Park. But the City Hall insider consensus is that South Boston, with its stream of incoming yuppies, will grow more liberal, as will Jamaica Plain, if that's even possible. West Roxbury, it's assumed, will only move to the left so far as new young homeowners nudge it.
With that said, the overall face of Boston isn't changing much in terms of demographics; the US Census bureau recently reported that the Latino population, which had grown by more than 40 percent between 1990 and 2000, had since leveled off. Meanwhile, the significant Carribean community was in slow decline — at least before the Haitian quake. Still, politics is a numbers game, and participation trumps sheer population every time.
"There's a new power rising in East Boston," according to political consultant Jim Spencer, president of The Campaign Network. "There was a time in history when it was a huge Italian voting power, and Eastie now has the density to become a Latino voting power. It's only a matter of time — you can quote me on that one. In fact, there's only one thing that I'm not willing to predict, and that's how many more times the mayor might run for office."
Chris Faraone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.