All posts by John G Jung ICF Chairman and Co-Founder

The Intelligent Community Movement: Adopted Around the World

NEW YORK — My job takes me around the world. I meet mayors and other senior government officials, private sector executives and university professors who are all excited about the opportunities that cities can now offer to help solve the challenges of our time. They also see the significant problems from the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation to economic upheaval, changing urban demographics and the impacts of shifting patterns of urban and regional settlement. But advances in global technologies, applications and innovations are now at a stage where we can potentially solve many of these challenging issues. Intelligent management systems, innovative applications and smart technologies that cities are now exploring for asset management could also be used for strategic sustainability planning and possibly even for major environmental cleanup strategies. Public-private partnerships are becoming more acceptable around the world and opportunities to develop new services evolving from new approaches in scalable projects are sharing the risk as never before.

Urbanization has been rampant in many areas least capable of absorbing large numbers of people from their rural hinterland. For instance, according to a study by Booz & Company, 30 people move from rural areas in India to a city every minute. To meet the demands of this urbanization will require the development of at least 500 new cities over the next two decades to eventually accommodate 700 million people by 2050. Imagine the opportunity to develop these as Smart and eventually Intelligent Cities? In fact, we may see as many as 56 Smart Cities (based on two for each of India’s 28 States) in just the next decade. There is already evidence of this turn-around, as we see Smart Communities such as Kochi and Ghaziabad, near New Delhi, Lavasa near Pune and the seven cities planned for in the Delhi- Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). But India is not the only country that is planning Smart and Intelligent Cities. China is well on the way to developing 200 Smart and Intelligent Cities and may have as many as 600-800 of these cities on the drawing board. Hundreds, if not thousands, of others are planned for Brazil, the USA, Canada and throughout Europe, Australia and the Middle East.

Thanks to government leadership and creative vendors such as IBM, Tech Mahindra, Siemens and Cisco, among others, we are already seeing advances in municipal asset management, traffic control and water and air pollution data monitoring.  Many communities around the world have seized on the “Smart City” concept as a sustainable and cost-effective solution to urban problems ranging from traffic management to efficiently delivering basic utilities and citizen services as well as attempting to solve pollution issues.

It takes a Smart City to become an Intelligent Community.

Beyond the initial step of a smart city approach focused on applied infrastructure, communications and data analysis strategies, there are cities around the world that have opted to take the more holistic approach advocated by the Intelligent Community movement. These cities have learned to work with their universities and colleges to target and develop talent and knowledge workers specifically geared for new and highly competitive knowledge-centric businesses. With enlightened municipal leadership and dedicated civil servants, passionate non-profits and highly engaged citizens, these towns, cities and regions have developed supportive ecosystems promoting creativity and innovation; trained their citizens to become digitally involved; undertook sustainable and other environmentally-sensitive initiatives; and wrapped them all in a bow and went around the world to promote themselves as Intelligent Communities. In turn, their unique differentiation and competitive advantages have helped them to attract foreign direct investment, develop, attract and retain their talent and create an extremely powerful brand that attracts people and investment. Since the late 1990’s the Intelligent Community Forum, the New York City-based global think tank and social enterprise has been tracking, benchmarking and promoting these communities and their characteristics. Today the Intelligent Community Forum has recognized 126 globally unique Intelligent Communities.

At this year’s Smart21 announcement the Intelligent Community Forum Co-Founder Lou Zacharilla noted that the United Nations Habitat agency reported that there’s been a lopsided focus solely on economic growth that cannot be sustained and has created inequalities between rich and poor. “We were pleased to see that the UN agency urges a path very similar to the Intelligent Community Forum approach where communities take a more holistic approach to prosperity and innovation, and seeks to emphasize the human potential in all places and also the fact that cities and towns need to create new industries, not replacement jobs, especially if more of us are going to realistically move toward a middle-class lifestyle.”

The Smart21 Intelligent Communities for 2014 are six communities hailing from Canada, four from both the United States and Australia; three are located in Taiwan and communities in Brazil, Greece, Kenya and New Zealand. In total 126 globally-recognized Intelligent Communities have met ICF’s criteria since 1999. For a complete list of Intelligent Communities, please visit .

Why should mayors, economic developers, urban and regional planners care if their communities qualify as Intelligent Communities? Simply put, it could mean the difference between prosperity and simply surviving, or worse.

Cities, towns and rural communities that have become Intelligent Communities have a much higher degree of maintaining and expanding their economic base, especially in an economic downturn, than those that have not prepared themselves for this possibility. This amounts to the same impact that the railways had on city development across Canada in the 1880’s. If you had access to the train, you had the opportunity to have commerce, education and innovation as part of your town. Without the train, many communities never had a chance to prosper and thrive. 

Global Examples

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA, the municipally-owned utility, the Electric Power Board (EPB) built a fiber-to-the-premise network to enable advanced smart grid solutions. Ultimately, the savings from the smart grid justified a 1 Giga bit/second broadband network, which attracted some of the most sought after businesses. But the infrastructure alone did not attract these investments. Chattanooga’s Chamber of Commerce and collaboration with its educational institutions, a revitalized city center and its overall Intelligent Community ecosystem created the unique opportunity that helped to attract companies such as Amazon, Volkswagen, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the Sim Center and many others.

Stockholm, Sweden also has a substantial municipally-owned network which Stokab creatively built without municipal funds. Its success is based on its “open-access” model, whereby Stokab built and operates the infrastructure but competitive providers deliver all services over the network. In fact it is a very attractive network; that combined with its Kista Science City, where more than 1,000 ICT companies employ 24,000 people, created a highly desirable innovation ecosystem. As a result, Stockholm increased its business growth, capital investments and job creation by 30%.

In Eindhoven, Netherlands, its homegrown multinational corporation, Phillips, relocated to Amsterdam, shocking the city and region to create a highly proactive economic development organization called Brainport. This organization works closely with its innovative community to strategically drive local prosperity and global competitiveness. Through the concept of open innovation, they focused on R&D and targeted innovation opportunities – so much so that over the years they have attracted tens of thousands of new jobs, rebuilt their confidence as a center for innovation and won the Intelligent Community of the Year award in 2011. Forbes Magazine now calls Eindhoven the most innovative city in the world based largely on the number of patents per 10,000 population.

Taichung boasts one of the world’s most robust telecommunications and high-speed broadband networks, but this central Taiwanese city also can boast about its universities, science parks, precision engineering collaborative and a highly tuned and effective civic leadership that works with its community to get things done and to heartily celebrate their successes. ICF’s global jury were so impressed with Taichung that it named it the most Intelligent Community in 2013.

While technology and infrastructure play a significant role in the creation of Intelligent Communities, the vast majority of the innovations that takes place are not technical, nor technological. It’s based on people being innovative and creative in using these technologies to constantly improve processes and products and to serve their customers and clients in new and better ways, adding to the prosperity of the entire community. It also is based on the leadership in a community and the desire of its citizens to transform their community so all its citizens will thrive.


About John G. Jung

John G. Jung is the Chairman and Co-Founder of the Intelligent Community Forum and President of its Intelligent Community Forum Foundation. John is credited with initiating the concept of Smart and Intelligent Communities with his work as an urban planner and urban designer from the 1970’s to 1990’s. His work in the field of urban and regional economic development and foreign direct investment since that time has helped to formulate the work of the Intelligent Community Forum.

For more information on the Intelligent Community Forum or to make a submission to be recognized as an Intelligent Community, please see:  

Seizing Destiny: The Intelligent Community Playbook

Education’s transforming influence as part of the Intelligent Community Movement

NEW YORK — Suneet Singh Tulli is worried. He is concerned about the three billion people in the world who cannot afford to buy an iPad. Mass education on a global scale is on his mind. He is aware that 65 years after India’s independence, 40% of its population are under the age of 18 and challenged to gain an education. He also knows that billions of people around the world are missing out on the incredible communications and educational opportunities provided by these expensive smart devices.  So he did something about it. As CEO of Datawind, Mr. Tulli created the $35 Aakash tablet that has similar features to the $800 iPad, plus enhanced communications capabilities. He and the Indian government are distributing them to hundreds of thousands of Indian schoolchildren. There is a backlog of millions of these tablets to be sent to schoolchildren around the world.

Since then, Mr. Tulli has been named by Forbes Magazine to be among the 15 "classroom revolutionaries" who are using innovative and highly disruptive technologies to reinvent education – “from the way we teach grade school math to how we train the next generation of teachers."

Another Forbes recipient is a professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who as President of edX has pulled together the online courses of the University of Texas, Harvard, MIT, and the University of California at Berkeley to which over 400,000 students are currently enrolled. Many other universities offer free online e-learning courses including Stanford, who’s Massive Open Online Course, has 160,000 students from 190 countries.  Clearly the way education is delivered around the world has changed and is continuing to evolve.

Today the use of smart devices and computers in the classroom has become accepted with 93% of students bringing their own devices to class. 100% of universities have social media accounts such as Facebook. Institutions no longer debate whether social networking should play a role in education, rather according to a Digital Directions survey, the discussion has shifted to what social networking tools work best and how to deploy them. Some use Facebook, for instance, to address social and community issues that engage the student, their parents and community as well as to promote school events, academic assignments and class projects. E-books are replacing traditional textbooks, gaming-based teaching is becoming an accepted form of learning and 3D printers are becoming more popular. Affordable high-speed broadband is a cornerstone in  vastly improving the way education is taught, delivered and consumed. Schools utilizing the lower cost option of the Internet Cloud are becoming commonplace and Anytime, Anywhere Access for faculty, students and staff is expected to become the norm.

Mass education is raising the bar throughout the world, especially in third world locations. It is having an impact at the national level and will within one generation help to alter the way in which society, its economy and its culture will be enhanced. 

Education has also impacted towns and cities in new ways that help them to transform into Intelligent Communities. An educated workforce is one of the five key Community Indicators for the creation of an Intelligent Community. Educational institutions are more than ever a full partner in the collaboration model with the public and private sectors. Schools, libraries, think tanks and especially colleges and universities are having a more significant influence on the local and regional infrastructure requirements, talent development, investment attraction, the innovation agenda, as well as the advocacy and public policy matters. The role of the president of a university, for instance, is shifting from strictly academic leader to community-leader and strategic collaborator.

Educational institutions are also beta test sites for technology; research centers for new ideas and test beds for clinical trials. Access to ultra-high speed broadband such as Intelligent Community Toronto’s gigabit environment will deliver Internet connections starting at 100 megabits per second for residential customers and up to 10 gigabits per second for commercial customers – all at an extraordinarily competitive cost. As a result it is expected that more digital media designers, computer scientists and systems engineers will be created, accelerating the innovation engine in this Intelligent Community. The talent that is generated from these opportunities attracts business and corporate interests, which adds to the local economy.

Back in one of India’s 700,000 villages, Mr. Tulli is looking at the smiling children who are learning with his tablet that enables engagement, interactivity and exchange, accelerating the learning process and in turn transforming these villages into Intelligent Communities.


John G. Jung originated the Intelligent Community concept and continues to serve as the Forum's leading visionary.  He is a registered professional urban planner, urban designer, economic developer and CEO of Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc. in the Region of Waterloo, Canada. The City of Waterloo was named Intelligent Community of the Year in 2007.