Canada doubles its chances for top community award

Canada is the only country to have two cities in the Intelligent Communities Forum’s Top Seven Communities of 2009, which means the country have twice the opportunity to bring home the Intelligent Community of the Year honors. And what’s more, both the cities are from the Province of New Brunswick.

Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick, was a 2008 Top Seven awardee. The city created its own telecom carrier to serve government facilities, the ICF white paper explains. Then they expanded it to meet business demand and found that they could provide free wireless broadband on top of this platform at a nominal cost.

But their story begins with the downsizing of government in the 1980s, which pushed public servants into the market, who unexpectedly formed a well-educated entrepreneurial class. When it could not get broadband from the private sector to meet their needs, Fredericton founded the e-Novations coop, which deployed a fiber ring that spurred competition, giving the city a 70% penetration rate at speeds of up to 18 Mbps.  The next step was the Fred-eZone wireless network, which provides free WiFi service across 65% of the city.  The combination of broadband, entrepreneurship and Fredericton’s universities has powered the creation of over 12,000 jobs in science parks, research centers and incubators, and engendered a strong culture of use for broadband in daily life.

Moncton, New Brunswick has a much different story however. Twenty years ago, the Moncton region was a former railroad and industrial hub. Strong leadership in the municipalities of Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview focused on information and communications technology as key to the future, according to the ICF. Since then, this bilingual community has become a major Canadian customer contact and back office center, and built a “near-shore” IT outsourcing industry. Private-sector carriers have collaborated in the city’s growth as a telecom-centric economy, and helped power the addition of 20,000 new jobs since the early 1990s, largely in management, finance, health services, technology and education. Moncton is now leveraging this success with a Vision 2010 plan. It calls for partnership with regional universities to deepen the region’s knowledge economy, diversifying its IT economy into new sectors, and actively promoting tech-based entrepreneurship.

Moncton became a booming area for new jobs through its collaboration. From the ICF white paper:

Moncton had witnessed a 300% increase in employment in ICT companies, a 153% Top Seven Intelligent Communities of 2009 increase in employment for graphic designers and illustrators, and a 43% increase in jobs for writers and translators. While New Brunswick suffered a net loss of 3,900 people from 2001 to 2006, the Greater Moncton area gained 6,800.

The two New Brunswick cities will go head to head this Friday when the ICF announces the Intelligent Community of the Year winner during its Building the Broadband Economy Summit being held in New York City today through Friday.

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