Innovations in building ‘broadband economy’ to be highlighted

An international think tank has issued a “best of breed” white paper ahead of its annual summit, Building the Broadband Economy.

The Intelligent Community Forum studies how technology, especially broadband, is redefining the term “globalization.” ICF Executive Director Robert Bell, and co-founders John Jung and Louis Zacharilla recognized that “globalization” didn’t give credence to the technology that has allowed knowledge workers from Bangalore, Taiwan, and Dublin compete with those in New York and Silicon Valley.

“In the Broadband Economy, the idea of location no longer exists, there’s really no such thing as the middle of no-where,” Robert Bell said in an interview last November. “But we’re not just interested in broadband deployment – we’re interested in technology policies that support and leverage each other, things that will develop powerful change within a community.”

Since 1999, the ICF has recognized top cities and towns across the globe for their innovations in the “Broadband Economy.” Singapore was the first Intelligent Community of the Year, and in 2006, ICF formalized its current awards process.

The ICF began its awards cycle last October with the naming of the Smart21. “The goal of the Smart21 Program is to acknowledge and celebrate communities around the world for their accomplishments in the Broadband Economy,” Mr. Bell said, “it gives us an opportunity to salute more communities.”

In the second stage of the awards cycle, the ICF awards the Top Seven Intelligent Communities. In 2009, communities in Canada, Netherlands, Sweden, France, Estonia and the United States made the cut. According to the new ICF white paper “Local Growth in a Global Economic Crisis,” Mr. Bell explains that Top Seven designation does not “make them the seven ‘smartest’ communities on the planet…Rather, it makes them the seven most compelling models of best practices in economic and community development worldwide.”

The paper outlines various commonalities shared by the Top Seven, and past winners, that have led to their success.

  • Successful collaboration among the government, business and nonprofit sectors
  • Leadership, in which an individual or group outlines a clear vision, attracts support and executes programs that deliver on the vision
  • A focus on sustainability and long-term investments in technology
  • They all foster a concept coined by ICF as the “culture of use” – an idea seen in action when citizens, employees and managers incorporate broadband into their daily lives, empowering knowledge and leveraging “survival skills of the Broadband Economy.”

In a separate interview, conducted last January after the Top Seven were announced, Mr. Bell spoke about the forthcoming white paper. “We want to produce sets of best practices,” Mr. Bell said, “so that other communities around the world can make use of strategies that work.”

The ICF will host its Building the Broadband Economy Summit to announce the 2009 Intelligent Community of the Year on May 15. The Summit is hosted by the New York University/Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, New York, and representatives from the Top Seven as well as past Intelligent Community winners will be in attendance.

In a world where technology is powerful enough to transform cultures and economies, it’s easy to understand how some might become fearful of the future. But for Mr. Bell and others at the Intelligence Community Forum, technology simply means the bar has been raised. Through technology, jobs may move from Indiana to India, but ideas can also move from Korea to Kansas to help replace those jobs, and wind technology pioneered in the Netherlands can be perfected in New Jersey to help build a cleaner future.

“It’s about how you use technology to leverage policy, that will develop powerful change,” Mr. Bell concluded.

Editor’s Note: CivSource will review the Top Seven winners leading up to the announcement this Friday – so check back daily to read about how communities are working to compete in the Broadband Economy.

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