Intelligent Communities are those which have – whether through crisis or foresight – come to understand the enormous challenges of the Broadband Economy, and have taken conscious steps to create an economy capable of prospering in it. They are not necessarily big cities or famous technology hubs. They are located in developing nations as well as industrialized ones, suburbs as well as cities, the hinterland as well as the coast.
The good news is that, while the Broadband Economy presents an epic challenge to communities, it also hands them a powerful new competitive tool. Beginning in the 1990s, carriers deployed the local networks that most of us think of as "broadband" – DSL, cable, satellite and wireless – within neighborhoods, towns and cities. At the same time, the costs of computer software and hardware – especially data storage – plummeted in obedience to Gordon Moore's famous law that the storage capacity of microchips doubles every 18 months. Through local broadband, individuals, small businesses, institutions and local governments have gained access to worldwide information resources and a broad range of tools to connect both globally and locally.
Global Reach, Local Gain
Today, broadband offers every community the opportunity to move from the periphery to the center in economic terms. It creates new kinds of companies like Yahoo and Google, even whole new industries. It enables small companies to be global exporters – including the export of skills and knowledge which were never before transportable across time zones or national borders.
It can ensure that schools in remote regions and inner cities have access to the latest information tools and reference sources. It can link rural healthcare providers to leading medical centers and local law enforcement to national information grids. Individuals and businesses can go global in search of low-cost, quality vendors, and Web-based tools can increase community involvement.
By boosting the economic and social well-being of communities, broadband can reduce the incentives for their young people to move away in search of opportunity and a better quality of life. Paradoxically, it can play a key role in giving communities a sustainable future in our ever-more-connected world.
Adapting to the Challenge
But broadband alone, technology alone, are not enough to create a prosperous and inclusive economy, which is the foundation for everything else that makes a community healthy and vital. Not in an environment in which broadband has put your community into direct competition with every similar community on earth, as well as opening up new opportunities for trade and collaboration. Intelligent Communities work long and hard to adapt to the challenges of the Broadband Economy. Some are recovering from economic crisis and have more plans and hopes than tangible results to show. Others are well on the way toward ambitious goals and have a record of achievement to display. Some far-sighted communities never let crisis overtake them in the first place, but made the right choices and investments in time to benefit from the emergence of the Broadband Economy.