The Intelligent Community Forum, a think tank that studies economic and social development, named its Top Seven Intelligent Communities of 2012 last week.
"Each of these communities has created a uniquely powerful ecosystem on a foundation of information and communications technology. By becoming platforms for innovation, they are creating a better life for citizens on all rungs of the economic ladder and a vibrant future for the next generation," said ICF Co-founder Louis Zacharilla who presented the Top Seven at the awards luncheon in Honolulu, during PTC'12.
The winners are:
When fourteen semiconductor manufacturers and the U.S. government created a partnership in the late 80's called SEMATCH to solve common manufacturing problems, the selection of Austin as its headquarters sparked a technology boom. Growth was so robust for so long that the Austin economy began to look recession-proof -- until the dot-com collapse of 2001 tripled the unemployment rate. In response, city government partnered with the Chamber of Commerce on a long-term economic development strategy that led to a nearly $6 billion increase in regional payrolls over five years. A second five-year plan launched in 2010 seeks to add another $11 billion. To address a workforce challenge, Austin has established a program that puts College Enrollment Managers into public schools to guide the choices made by students has helped boost the graduation rate for low-income students 14 percentage points to 75%.
Over the past 200 years, Oulu has seen industries come and go, from tar and wood in the age of sail to leather goods, fishing and heavy equipment manufacturing. When heavy industry went into steep decline, the Nokia Research Center and small-to-midsize enterprises (SMEs) became Oulu's biggest employers. But city leaders remained alert to "the Nokia threat" -- employment concentrated in a single large company -- and founded the Oulu Technology Park to incubate more SMEs. Despite the financial crisis that hit in 2007, Oulu has managed to create 18,000 jobs in high technology, thanks to risk-taking in education and strong public-private collaboration. The government of Oulu has also created an intensive culture of use for information and communications technologies.
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Quebec City has long enjoyed the benefits that accrue to a provincial capital that is also the economic and cultural hub of the province. In the midst of recession, its unemployment rate is less than 5%. Home to major universities, it ranks #1 in Canada and #2 in North America for university students per capita, and has the nation's largest per capita concentration of researchers. Regional GDP has grown 30% in the past 10 years, driven largely by R&D and high-tech businesses. Yet in the 1980s, Quebec City accounted for only 3% of high-tech jobs in the entire province. A decision by local government to interconnect the city's universities and business community transformed a political capital into a technology capital. Quebec Metro High Tech Park is now home to nearly 100 companies employing 5,000 people and the Park's management team continues to advise and steer promising applications from universities into commercial development.
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.
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
Most of the world celebrated the start of the new century in 2000, but it was a time for mourning in Saint John. A shipbuilding contract from the Canadian government came to an end and a major food manufacturer closed its plant in the same year. A long period of industrial decline had suddenly reached crisis point. But while it had Canada's largest per capita decline in manufacturing from 1989 to 2003, Saint John also saw 8% growth in services, double the Canadian average. To accelerate that positive trend, the city created a partnership with education, health care, provincial government, cultural institutions and business. It targeted ICT, life sciences, tourism, energy and advanced manufacturing for growth. In a strategy called True Growth, the city engaged with local employers and educators to identify and recruit skilled young people emerging from secondary school and university. It also recruited skilled immigrants and launched a mentorship program to connect immigrant entrepreneurs with business executives.
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 Canadas largest furniture industry but also a railroad town and contributor to southern Ontarios 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 Stratfords family physicians are on a broadband e-health portal for health records, administration and after-hours care, which has helped ease the regions shortage of family practitioners.
Taichung City, Taiwan
At the end of 2010, the county and city of Taichung were merged, creating a massive metropolis of over 2,000 km2 (850 square miles). For all of the administrative headaches it brought, the merger created an opportunity to make Taichung's companies, government, transportation systems, and business parks work more efficiently together, while also aiming to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by millions of tons. The city has, over time, invested side-by-side with Taiwan's telecommunications carriers; as a result, Taichung now has 80% coverage for both WiMAX wireless and fiber broadband, with 100% expected within 5 years. Using this network, Taichung has worked steadily to streamline the way business operates. Taichung's Industrial Technology Research Institute has introduced 47 precision manufacturers to a new a shared, cloud-based Engineering Data Bank that reduces purchasing costs and time-to-market. It is the first of a series of such joint projects to harness ICT for industrial applications, safety, healthcare, energy savings and lifestyle.
For more information on the The Top Seven Intelligent Communities of 2012 click here.