New York-based think tank Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) has been naming its version of the world's most intelligent communities based on its community indicators of success since 1999. This year's top 7 represents a range of different approaches and planning strategies, according to ICF Founder Louis Zacharilla.
"Each is ‘revolutionary’ in its own way, and each has planned its future in a way that is consistent with its cultural identity, while using universally available digital tools and broadband technology," Zacharilla said. "As we have seen each year, cities, towns and regions that continue to work with these tools and concepts transform themselves from ‘smart’ to ‘intelligent,’ which is how real sustainable growth and investment will arrive."
The 2015 Top7
Below are brief profiles of the winning communities, in alphabetical order, as described by ICF:
Arlington County, Virginia, USA: Appearing for the third time as a Top7 Intelligent Community, Arlington has used smart planning to leverage the benefits of its location near Washington, D.C. Arlington looks to continue its growth into the future with its Telecom Master Plan, the innovative work being done at Virginia Tech and The Arlington Way, a formal structure of more than 40 citizen advisory groups and commissions, which influence decisions on everything from land use to technology, and intense collaboration among government, business and the nonprofit sector to spur innovation.
Columbus, Ohio, USA: On the Top7 Intelligent Communities of the Year list for the third year in a row, Columbus has the highest metropolitan concentration of Fortune 1000 companies in the U.S. Columbus aims to overcome its biggest challenge – a large, low-income population stranded by the decline of low-skilled factory employment – with programs increasing collaboration among government, education, business and institutions. Columbus is now one of a handful of U.S. metros that turned a continuous and persistent period of brain drain into brain gain in 2007-2009. Employment growth in skilled manufacturing has exceeded 35% over the past decade. And in 2013, Columbus was named one of the top 10 cities in the U.S. for new college grads.
Ipswich, Queensland, Australia: Ipswich is appearing on the Top7 Intelligent Communities of the Year list for the first time. In 2011, Ipswich published a 20-year economic development plan designed to combat its challenges and prepare for the ones to come. When the Australian government’s National Broadband Network was announced in 2009, Ipswich partnered with local communities to create what they called the Western Corridor National Broadband Network and attract national investment. A Digital Hub project and Digital Enterprise program are equipping citizens and business with digital skills, while Ipswich begins a major redevelopment of its city center, where digital technologies will be used to attract tenants and to improve public safety. Green standards will make the center one of the most sustainable in Australia.
Mitchell, South Dakota, USA: Making its first appearance as a Top7 Intelligent Community of the Year, the rural community of Mitchell has been shaped by declining demand for employment in agriculture. A strategic plan developed in the late 1980s, named Vision 2000, called for a community-wide emphasis on education, healthcare, infrastructure and recreation. It led to the merger of two hospitals, creating a unified healthcare system that became the city’s biggest employer, and the construction of new schools that partnered with the local university and recreation center to advance educational excellence. Telecommunications development has created another economy on top of Mitchell’s agricultural one, consisting of engineering, consulting and software companies that have made Mitchell into a regional hub for expertise and services. ICF said it demonstrates the hope that broadband and new ideas in planning offer to rural communities and towns.
New Taipei City, Taiwan: New Taipei City is appearing for the second consecutive year as a Top7 Intelligent Community – a feat all the more impressive because the city was only formed in 2010 from the county surrounding Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei. Mayor Eric Chu, the founding mayor of the city and a national political figure, set out to transform a loose collection of suburban cities and rural land into a unified metropolis. Massive investment went into high-speed roads and rails to unite the doughnut-shaped city, while broadband advances coupled with a Knowledge-Bridge project has driven industry-university collaboration projects and provided talent and job matchmaking.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Rio de Janeiro, a first time Top7 Intelligent Community of the Year, is a city as famous for its natural beauty and Carnival spirit as for its crime-plagued slums. But ambition, good luck and more innovative leadership have given the city a boost. Rio’s hosting of the 2014 World Cup, as well as winning the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, gave the city opportunities to revitalize itself, plan a range of future-centered activities, including a better transportation system and to deal with long-standing infrastructure problems. ICT programs such as The Knowledge Squares and The Rio Datamine have also helped Rio in its mission to create a future worthy of its nickname: Cidade Maravilhosa or the Marvelous City.
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada: Surrey, another first-time Top7 Intelligent Community, is a city in transition from a suburban past in the shadow of Vancouver to a sustainable urban future. To gain greater control over its destiny, Surrey has developed a diversification strategy calling for deepening the partnership between its institutions of higher learning and local business. Development is focused on an Innovation Boulevard project, where the city, universities and business are building clusters in health technology, clean tech and advanced manufacturing. Overseeing the project is the Mayor’s Health Technology Working Group, comprised of 50 representatives from universities, a health authority, nonprofits, business associations, government and developers.
Did ICF get it right? Use the Comment form (log-in required) to tell us what you think.