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Unlikely Equals – The World’s Top7 Intelligent Communities
NEW YORK — Recently, at the Pacific Telecommunications Council’s conference in Honolulu, the world’s Top7 Intelligent Communities were named. These seven outdistanced hundreds of others to become international stars. They now take center stage as examples of communities that successfully marry innovation and employment, while building confidence. After further evaluation, they will fly to New York in early June to see which is voted Intelligent Community of the Year. Among the most-asked questions is “What do the Top7 have in common?”
First, four of these communities’ names begin with the letter “T.” That is unusual – and a coincidence. What is not coincidental is that two countries, ranked 35th and 53rd worldwide in terms of population (Canada and Taiwan), contributed two communities each. I am not surprised. Taiwan and Canada are “knowledge based” economies, and for over a decade used the criteria for becoming an Intelligent Community as a roadmap for change. Both embrace policies built around strong, education-centric, knowledge-based communities as the means to pave a path to future growth.
These communities each take bold steps and build confidence among citizens. Stratford, Canada, with a mere 32,000 people, is gutsy enough think of itself as an equal to Toronto, Taichung and Taoyuan County, which each exceeds 2 million in population. If you go to Stratford, you find a cultured place, which is home to the largest North American Shakespeare festival. The festival produces CAN$139 million in annual revenue and jobs in creative industries. It strives for balance alongside a cluster of Japanese automobile manufacturers and a large agricultural belt, which supplies its excellent restaurants. The locals in this hometown of singer Justin Beiber will tell you that they “punch above their weight.” Yet, like Oulu and Columbus, it does not go toe-to-toe, but rather brain-to-brain. Stratford is migrating its cultural assets to a digital infrastructure in an attempt to stimulate innovation.
Taichung’s manufacturing economy is built on a network of 1,500 precision machinery makers and thousands of suppliers, which are enabled by a cloud-based system that reduces costs and time to market. Yet the city’s mayor, Jason Hu, knows that prosperity is not about turning people into economic units. Quite the opposite. The community’s lifelong learning and digital education system reinforces in workers that the cultivation of knowledge is essential to their employment and their city’s need to remain sharp. Like fellow Taiwanese community Taoyuan, this community knows that it is dependent on broadband to remain relevant.
Three of this year’s seven, Oulu, Stratford and Taichung, return to the list from 2012. Three others (Tallinn, Toronto and Taoyuan County) return to the list after an absence. Even Columbus, Ohio, which enters the list for the first time, based on claims of steady job creation through the financial crisis, has a deep relationship with the small, vibrant community of Dublin, Ohio, a former Top7! The two share a broadband ecosystem, a tech incubator and academic capacities that propel both.
Finally, each of the seven knows that re-energizing their communities is a long process and an intergenerational effort. It is clear to anyone studying the Intelligent Community movement that progress is made the way a cathedral is built, slowly and with great care and aspiration. The life of a community does not come to a full STOP when it is selected as the Intelligent Community of the Year. How can it? The award, and the recognition that goes with it, simply mean that good work has been done and that more is left to do. Once recognized as an Intelligent Community, all say that there is more pressure to innovate. Peer pressure, it seems, is a great enabler!
The ICF 2013 Top7 are:
- Columbus, USA
- Oulu, Finland
- Stratford, Canada
- Taichung City, Taiwan
- Tallinn, Estonia
- Taoyuan County, Taiwan
- Toronto, Canada
Louis Zacharilla, Co-Founder, Intelligent Community Forum
Mr. Zacharilla is credited with helping to launch the global intelligent community movement. He is a speaker at major events worldwide and the co-author of three books, including the recently published “Seizing Our Destiny.” In 2012, he represented ICF at the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, where he was asked to speak about the role of communities in an Open Society.
The Intelligent Community Forum is a New York-based think tank that studies the economic and social development of communities in the “Broadband Economy.” ICF shares the best practices of the world's Intelligent Communities in order to help communities everywhere find sustainable renewal and growth. For more information visit www.intelligentcommunity.org or call +1 212-249-0624.
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