In a nation with thousands of years of recorded history, the city of Ichikawa is a newcomer, having been founded as a residential suburb of Tokyo only in 1934. Since then, Ichikawa has benefited economically from its location near Tokyo Central Railway Station and Japan's primary international airport at Narita. Population grew strongly as a result, reaching nearly a half million people today.

But like the overall Japanese economy, Ichikawa has found itself challenged to continue that growth as manufacturing and high-tech industries, which spurred the last growth wave in the 1970s and 1980s, stumbled in the 1990s. The decade-long recession and deflation that gripped Japan until recently forced its local communities to innovate and adapt in order to survive. ICF recognizes Ichikawa for applying the principles of Intelligent Community development to charting a new course for its citizens and local businesses.

Ichikawa Business Plaza

The most visible sign of change in Ichikawa came in 2002, when a group of institutions led by the city's government opened Ichikawa Business Plaza. This was the community's first experiment with business incubation. The building provided broadband-enabled office space for small office, home office (SOHO) companies and larger enterprises, as well as public space offering PCs and a regional data center for the use of surrounding communities, nonprofit organizations and residents' associations. Managed by the Ichikawa Life Network Club, the Plaza currently has 29 companies as tenants, and offers them advice on finance, law and business issues through a network of advisors from universities, the Chamber of Commerce, and business owners in the region.

The Business Plaza became the core of an expanding series of programs designed to create a culture of use for broadband and information technology. The Plaza developers' timing was good, because Japan was just beginning serious and widespread adoption of broadband that would put the nation into third place worldwide, behind South Korea and Canada. This created demand among citizens for the offerings emerging from both the public and private sectors.

Broadband and its Applications

Shortly after deregulation in the 1980s, the city and local companies established the Ichikawa Cable Network Company to provide TV service. With broadband demand growing in the late 1990s, the cable TV company introduced a broadband service via cable modem in 2000 at lower prices than the incumbent NTT. By 2005, broadband subscribers on the cable network had grown fivefold to reach 9,000. Total broadband penetration in the city now exceeds 46%, compared with a national average of 39%.

The Chiba University of Commerce (CUC), located in Ichikawa, has a Faculty of Policy Informatics, which focuses on the use of IT in solving social problems. CUC has partnered with the government to create distance education programs over the Internet. The city was also chosen by Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for a model project to develop a new system connecting public and school libraries to open up research resources to citizens. An e-government project called 360+5 has made many government services accessible online and installed Internet-access kiosks at public locations as well as 600 convenience stores. In 2001, the city started training classes for residents and citizen groups in information and communications technology and by 2005 had provided training to 30,000 people.

Public safety has been a hot topic for citizens, and in 2005, the city began installing video cameras in public locations and launched an online Ichikawa Safety e-Net program in cooperation with neighborhood associations. The e-Net allows citizens to report crimes and concerns through mobile phones and PCs, and distributes weather and disaster information.

Media City Ichikawa

One of the city's latest projects is Media City Ichikawa. Visited by 100,000 people each month, this facility aims to create a culture of use for broadband and the IT services it delivers. In the Media City, a Central Library provides access to books, research, music and videos online. An Audio-Visual Center offers an expanding archive of AV material from citizens and government agencies, as well as audio and video editing suites, music and video studios and an auditorium seating 260. To build the collection, the city hosts contests for the best audio-visual work. The Central Playhouse offers children playground equipment, books and PCs as well as classes, while an Education Center is devoted to training teachers in information and communications technology.

These efforts at continuous improvement have attracted both public and private organizations to locate in Ichikawa. The public/nonprofit sector is represented by the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, the Department of Engineering of the University of Tokyo, and seven universities and colleges including Tokyo Management College and Chiba Institute of Technology. Private-sector organizations include the technology division of Sumitomo Metal Mining, a TDK Corporation technical center, the Electronic Material Research department of Nissan Chemical and the R&D Center of NTT Communications. The total workforce in information and communications industries has grown from 57,000 in 1990 to 73,000 in 2005, seven times faster than overall population growth.

Population: 446,430

Labor Force: 239,322

Website: www.city.ichikawa.lg.jp

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