THUNDER BAY – The Intelligent Community Forum have named its 2011 Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year. The ICF’s Top Seven are communities that provide a model of economic and social development in the 21st Century using information and communications technology to power growth, address social challenges and preserve and promote culture. The Top Seven announcement is the second stage of ICF’s annual Intelligent Community of the Year awards cycle.
Two of the communities are from Canada.
The Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year
The following communities, drawn from the Smart21 of 2011, were named to the Top Seven based on analysis of their nominations by a team of independent academic experts: Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA. In 1969, the US government cited Chattanooga as the city with America’s dirtiest air. In response, the City Council joined with local companies and physicians to create a pollution control board that led to $10m in private-sector air-quality investments. When heavy manufacturing declined in the 70’s and 80’s, the same spirit of partnership and the support of local foundations led to a decade of transformative downtown revitalization projects. To spark economic revival the business, academic and governmental leadership pressed forward on multiple fronts, such as higher standards for secondary education with integrated career training. The city-owned electric utility built a fiber network that will collect billions of data points and provide real-time management that will significantly boost the grid’s reliability and performance.
Dublin, Ohio, USA. In Dublin, the average resident is between 35 and 45 years of age and eighty percent have a university degree. A strategic planning exercise led Dublin (a 2010 Top Seven community) to install underground conduits to encourage fiber-optic deployment. This became DubLink, a public-private fiber network for business, government and schools, which spurred aggressive roll-out of e-government services from digital filing of taxes to Dublin TV online video channels. An all-Dublin wireless network has extended coverage to provide cost-saving service automation to the city and a platform for service providers to reach customers. Dublin also uses the availability of dark fiber to attract employers like OhioHealth and the Online Computer Library Center, and drives innovation in partnership with a nonprofit that has accelerated the growth of 50 local companies. The surge of entrepreneurship has created an economy in which, despite a number of very large companies, the average Dublin business employs just seven people.
Eindhoven, Netherlands. Eindhoven (a 2009 and 2010 Top Seven community) is a metro area containing the cities of Eindhoven, Helmond and Veldhoven, which has long been the industrial heart of the Netherlands. Recent decades have not been kind to manufacturing in developed nations, but Eindhoven has kept its edge through a model public-private program called “Brainport.” This has turned the region into an open innovation platform. Executing a strategy approved by its member organizations, Brainport works to identify their strengths, weaknesses, needs and gaps, then develops joint projects using ICT to meet social challenges, sharpen citizen skills and business competitiveness, and create business opportunities that keep the income in the region. This consistent effort has added 55,000 jobs to the economy in the past 10 years, lowered unemployment below the Dutch average in most years, nearly quadrupled high-tech start-ups since 2000, and helped the region weather the financial crisis.
Issy-les-Moulineaux, France. Issy-les-Moulineaux (a 2005, 2007 and 2009 Top Seven community) became the industrial zone of Paris in the 20th Century only to suffer de-industrialization in the post-war years. Beginning in 1980, a visionary mayor determined to make his city home to innovative, ICT-based companies employing a high-quality, knowledge-based workforce.
His strategy focused on creating an ICT-centric ecosystem that leading-edge companies would find attractive. Issy implemented e-government, outsourced its IT requirements and worked with new telecom carriers in advance of liberalization to bring business and residents local choice in communications as soon as a new telecom law took effect in 1998. The strategy was a success with business, with 60% of employers now in ICT and digital media, and also with the public, an overwhelming majority of whom believe that the Internet has changed their lives for the better. With 1,500 employers providing 70,000 jobs today, Issy now has more career positions than residents.
Riverside, California, USA. Located 60 miles from Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Riverside is a bedroom community and university town, home to four colleges and universities. It is also an agricultural community and a warehousing and transportation hub. But none of these industries has provided Riverside with sustainable growth. Today, the city is building a tech-based economy that seizes the opportunities of the broadband revolution. A nonprofit, Smart Riverside, focuses on technology initiatives, and a CEO Forum of local tech companies has produced a plan for tech-based transformation. The community has partnered with its universities to develop tech parks, incubators, business accelerators and mentoring programs. Carriers have deployed fiber and wireless networks reaching 80% of the city. A $1.6 billion revitalization program begun in 2006 is improving traffic flow, replacing aging water, sewer and electric infrastructure, and improving police, fire, parks and libraries.
Stratford, Ontario, Canada. Since its founding as a mill town in the 1800s, Stratford has been a crossroads where agriculture, industry and culture meet. It has been the home to Canada’s largest furniture industry but also a railroad town and contributor to southern Ontario’s growth as a workshop of the automotive industry. Since 1952, it has also been home to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the largest employer in town and generates C$135m in local economic activity. Stratford, however, has had to take major steps to create a 21st Century economy. A city-owned company has laid 60 km of optical fiber and used it as the backbone of a public WiFi network. The University of Waterloo has opened a Stratford campus offering a Masters of Business Entrepreneurship and Technology program. This has given rise to the Stratford Institute, a think tank focusing on digital media. Broadband and IT have also addressed the challenges of rural healthcare. Eighty percent of Stratford’s family physicians are on a broadband e-health portal for health records, administration and after-hours care, which has helped ease the region’s shortage of family practitioners.
Windsor-Essex, Ontario, Canada. Located directly across the river from the US automotive capital of Detroit, Windsor shares its pain. Automobile assembly, research and technology contribute C$30bn to the local economy but are in structural decline greatly accelerated by the current recession. Working in partnership with Essex County government, Windsor is crafting a new, more robust economy to take its place and avoid future pain. Assets include strong tourism and agriculture industries (including many wineries), the presence of the University of Windsor and national and provincial government support. A cooperative fiber network, WEDnet, meets the needs of governmental, institutional and educational facilities throughout the region and Windsor-Essex is partnering with other communities to extend broadband to people in underserved rural areas. Government has collaborated with business to create a software technology alliance to attract entrepreneurs, mentor existing businesses and share resources for growth.
“The Top Seven of 2011 have demonstrated perseverance and an innovative dedication to the future of their communities,” said ICF Co-founder Louis Zacharilla who presented the Top Seven at a luncheon in Honolulu, during PTC’11. “That dedication is reflected in the number of communities returning to the list this year.” He added, “Each of these communities has also demonstrated ingenuity in improving the delivery of healthcare using information and communications technology. Most are also spurring the growth of local businesses in healthcare, which is expected to be one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy.”
The awards cycle concludes in New York City in June during ICF’s annual Building the Broadband Economy Summit, where one of the Top Seven will succeed Suwon, South Korea as Intelligent Community of the Year. Two of the last three Intelligent Communities of the Year have been from Asia.