Six local governments leading the way in healthcare ICT

According to the Intelligent Community Forum, a New York City-based think tank that studies the economic and social impacts of broadband, six US cities and counties are leading the way in healthcare delivery through innovative IT and telecommunications strategies. The US honorees join fifteen others from Canada, Australia, Europe and Asia as part of the Smart21 Communities of 2011 – the first stage of ICF’s annual Intelligent Community Awards cycle.

In an interview with ICF Co-founder Louis Zacharilla, he said this year’s Smart21 was an interesting group, composed of ten repeat honorees and eleven new communities – including a first-time community in Hungary. When asked why nearly half the Smart21 were repeat honorees, Zacharilla said, “It says to me they are putting together stronger proposals, using what they had learned to close the gap and moving forward.”

“Broadband for these communities is no longer an issue. They’re not thinking ‘should we have connections to schools, hospitals, businesses?’ They’ve been there, done that. Now they’re moving onto the innovation level.”

In years past, ICF has focused on how communities were leveraging broadband to make their communities more competitive and desirable in the global economy. Two years ago the theme was Sustainability, and last year it was the 21st Century Workforce. Each year, communities that had laid high-speed foundations were honored for how they were using broadband to improve their communities in the face of a global downturn, or create the needed human capital to compete.

This year’s theme, “Health in the Intelligent Community,” looks at how communities are using information and communication technologies in health.

For many parts in the West, “Demographics are coming home to roost,” Mr. Zacharilla said. He says that some communities that have significant elderly populations are innovating to connect them to the economy, helping them stay in their homes and lead the lives they want.

“It’s an increasingly important issue,” he said, “A lot of communities are building clusters around health and ICT.” Research and development is manifesting itself in services, but also business and industry are springing out of these clusters, Zacharilla said.

US-based honorees in the 2011 Smart21 include:

  • Riverside, CA: A nonprofit, Smart Riverside, led by CIO Steve Reneker focuses on technology initiatives, and a CEO Forum of local tech companies has produced a plan for tech-based transformation that has partnered its universities to develop tech parks, incubators, business accelerators and mentoring programs. A digital divide strategy gives any family that completes a training class a free PC refurbished by reformed gang members, which has made Riverside’s Project Bridge the largest collector of “e-waste” in the region.
  • Northeast Ohio (A 24-county region that includes Cleveland, Akron and Canton): A nonprofit called OneCommunity acquired fiber from carriers and developed it into a cooperative ultrabroadband network used by its government and institutional members throughout the region. OneCommunity has also raised hundreds of millions of dollars from foundations and government – including Federal broadband stimulus funds – and is using it to educate community and state officials on broadband-enabled economic development. Through OneCommunity, the foundation, business, educational, healthcare and government leaders of the region have created a means to leverage individual projects into region-wide success.
  • Dublin, OH: DubLink, a public-private fiber network for business, government and schools, which spurred aggressive roll-out of e-government services from digital filing of taxes to Dublin TV online video channels. In partnership with the Ohio Supercomputer Center, DubLink has created a research network linking regional schools, universities and hospitals.
  • Danville, VA: Danville has a city-owned electric utility, which launched the nDanville open-access fiber network to bring world-class connectivity to business and government. The city also partnered with county government to develop a business incubator and with Virginia Tech to build a new research institute.
  • Dakota County, MN: In response to the economic downturn towns and cities in the County turned to community colleges, businesses and government to significantly boost its share of knowledge-based businesses – particularly the entrepreneurial companies that power sustainable job growth – and to expand the skilled labor pool through education and retraining. The public-private effort has already helped generate new ICT-dependent jobs equal to 8% of the total population, and a task force of citizens, businesses, institutions and government led by nonprofit Dakota Future is charting a path to faster, sustainable growth.
  • Chattanooga, TN: Chattanooga’s city-owned electric utility has built a fiber network that will collect billions of data points and provide real-time management that will significantly boost the grid’s reliability and performance. It will also extend ultra-high-speed broadband to 170,000 homes and businesses.

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