ICF Rankings: Work 2019

ICF-Rankings-Work.jpgThe Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) has released a comprehensive ranking of intelligent communities ranked by their ability to create a knowledge-based workforce, one of the criteria of intelligent communities in the ICF Method.

The list ranks Intelligent Communities in our global data set using data on communities submitted from 2014 through 2018. This data is carefully weighted to balance the self-reported and third-party data of the Smart21 evaluation and the data from later stages of evaluation that is subject to onsite validation.

An knowledge-based workforce is a labor force that creates economic value through its knowledge, skills and ability to use information effectively. Success in the broadband economy requires the ability to create a workforce qualified to perform knowledge work from the factory floor to the research lab, and from the construction site to the call center or corporate headquarters.

Communities completing ICF’s questionnaire have the option of requesting a detailed Metrics report comparing them on multiple factors to the Forum’s global data set on Intelligent Communities. See Community Accelerator for details.

The ICF Rankings: Work 2019 list is the latest publication in ICF’s By The Numbers series. It provides a useful guide to the relative strengths of communities in ICF’s network, and an inspiration for greater progress in coming years. Future By the Numbers rankings of intelligent communities will be released by ICF in the coming months.



1. Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto has both the assets and the liabilities that come with being Canada’s largest city. On the asset side is its diverse economy, with key clusters in finance, media, ICT and film production, and success as a magnet for immigrants that have made it one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Major carriers offer high-quality broadband to 100% of residents, and its five major universities and multiple colleges have attracted 400,000 students and helped ensure that Toronto has more residents with undergraduate degrees that London.

Though impressive in size and scale, the Toronto Waterfront is only the most visible of many public-private collaborations through which the city is pursuing an ICT-powered future. The MaRS Discovery District supplies housing, incubation, acceleration and investment services to hundreds of early stage portfolio companies downtown, while the Ryerson University Digital Media Zone gives entrepreneurs space and services to move great ideas to initial commercial success. The Centre for Social Innovation does the same for social innovators and its successful model has led to operations across four locations in two countries. Toronto’s libraries offer computers and training to tens of thousands, while outreach programs equip families with inexpensive IT, connectivity and training. With C$2 billion planned for transportation investment over the next 25 years, Toronto is preparing the physical, human and digital infrastructure for continued success.

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2. Montréal, Quebec, Canada

montreal_thumbnail.jpgThe largest French-speaking city in North America, the Montréal Metro Area is home to more than a tenth of Canada’s population. The region was hit by the decline of heavy industry in the Eighties, and launched a large-scale transition of its economy to ICT, aerospace, life sciences, health technologies and clean tech. Together, these clusters contain more than 6,250 companies employing about 10% of the workforce.

The metro area’s universities graduate more students from higher education than any other Canadian city. Over 415,000 students earned an undergraduate or graduate degree there from 1998 through 2008. Montréal institutions also received more than 160,000 registrations for e-learning in the 2011-12 school year, while a specialized program is training hundreds of teachers in the use of digital technologies. This educational foundation feeds into the region’s fast-growing knowledge economy, which is a major focus of policy. Montréal operates six Learning Labs specializing in areas from transportation to healthcare and urban planning, and has deployed an online collaboration system to engage its ICT cluster (some 5,000 companies) in more open innovation. Accelerator programs and co-working spaces foster an expanding start-up culture, with the arts and media playing a significant role; Cirque de Soleil is a Montréal company.

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3. Espoo, Finland

espoo.jpgIn the far northern nations of the world, people tend to cluster southward. Espoo, Finland's second largest city, lies on the border of its biggest city and national capital, Helsinki. Both stand on Finland’s southern coast, directly across the Gulf of Finland from Tallinn, a frequent Top7 Intelligent Community and the capital of Estonia.

In 1950, Espoo was a regional municipality of 22,000, which drew its name from the Swedish words for the aspen tree and for river. Today, Espoo is still a place on a river bordered by aspen, and about 8 percent of its population still speaks Swedish as its first language. Sixty-five years later, however, it is an industrial city of 270,000. It retains its dispersed, regional nature, however, being made of up of seven population hubs arrayed along the border with Helsinki, where many of its citizens work.

In Espoo, education is not just a means of equipping the next generation with inquiring minds and employable skills. It is also an economic development program. In 2016, Espoo launched a collaborative project called KYKY Accelerated Co-Creation. It turns schools into living labs that support students’ learning and growth while giving educational technology companies a platform to develop products and services for learning. It recognizes that today’s edtech companies lack real understanding of today’s school life, pedagogy and curriculum, and is creating a new operating model to overcome the challenge.

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4. Moscow, Russia

moscow.jpgThe capital city of Russia, Moscow produces more than 20% of that nation’s GDP and, with over 12 million people, is the largest city on the European continent. It is also a city that has taken enormous strides to build a collaborative, knowledge-based economy in a nation better known for top-down leadership, where 80% of exports are of oil, natural gas and other natural resources.

The Moscow Department of Education collaborates with universities, colleges, research institutions and cultural organizations to offer specialized courses beginning in primary school. More than 150 Moscow schools offer profession-oriented medical and engineering classes across the grade levels. Universities develop the programs and train teachers to deliver them, while companies and medical institutions hold hands-on workshops where students learn occupational skills.

For high school students, the same team creates pre-university classes offering a higher level of training in engineering and medical subjects as well as design and research. By the end of the 2016-17 school year, 96% of Moscow schools will have implemented at least 3 profession-oriented programs.

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5. Nelson, British Columbia, Canada

nelson_british_columbia.jpgThe city of Nelson has a long history of booming growth, quick modernization, and community action. Founded on the discovery of silver in the nearby mountains, Nelson grew into a thriving transportation and distribution center for the region, expanding its economy into forestry and agriculture as well as mining. The city of just over 10,000 is found in the Selkirk Mountains near the southern border of British Columbia and is the regional seat of the Central Kootenay Regional District, despite making up only about one fifth of the region’s population. Nelson has struck a rare balance of modernization and preservation, updating many of its buildings with modern conveniences over the past half century, beginning with aluminum siding in the 1960s, while maintaining its historic downtown as a window into the past.

Founded in 2010 by Brad Pommen, the Nelson Tech Club (NTC) “Hackerspace” offers weekly technology programs for local youth ages 10-16. The club provides mentors, tools and resources—using a social learning framework based on STEM initiatives—for up to 50 participants each week. NTC provides its tools and resources to the community at low or sometimes no cost to increase technology adoption and train local youth in technical skills for future careers. The club also coordinates with the RoboGames youth robotics competition for the Kootenay region. Since its founding, the NTC Hackerspace has grown into Canada’s largest all-ages, public Hackerspace with over 400 registered members in 2016.

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6. Mitchell, South Dakota, USA

mitchell_south_dakota.jpgLike rural cities around the world, Mitchell has been shaped by the productivity revolution in agriculture. Over the past 80 years, automation has transformed farming from a labor-intensive business to a capital-intensive one employing a tiny percentage of the workforce. The six counties surrounding Mitchell have lost one-third of their population since 1930. The most talented and ambitious are inevitably the first to go.

Telecommunications development has created another economy on top of Mitchell’s agricultural one. It consists of engineering, consulting and software companies that have made Mitchell into a regional hub for expertise and services. The city and its institutions have responded by deepening their support for the digital economy. The school system has introduced a 1-to-1 laptop and tablet program for middle and secondary school students, and is piloting mass customized learning.

MTI has invested $40 million in a new technology-based campus, where it trains hundreds of communications and data technicians, while Dakota Wesleyan University has created centers for entrepreneurship and health sciences. A local angel investors network has sprung up and begun incubating new communications startups. So successful has the new economy become that it is attracting new office industries including healthcare support companies Alleviant and Avera Health Systems. Mitchell is responding by partnering with recruitment companies to attract talent from across America to the city. Rather than seeing its population decline, Mitchell has become a Midwest magnet for ICT talent.

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7. Stratford, Ontario, Canada

stratford_ontario.jpgAt the turn of the new century, Stratford had a reputation for being quaint, cultured and out of the way, home to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and a 90-minute drive from Toronto, the business capital of eastern Canada. The Festival is a home-grown success story in cultural tourism. Founded in 1953, it became the largest employer in the city and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in local economic activity in ticket sales, restaurants, lodging and culture. This economic center complemented Stratford's industrial base, which supplied the North American automotive and aerospace sectors. But in the last Nineties, the city's forward-looking leadership saw that the growth opportunities of the future would depend on information and communications technology.

After nearly a decade of planning and development, Stratford succeeded in establishing a satellite campus of the University of Waterloo that leverages the presence of an outstanding source of content: the Shakespeare Festival. The school launched with a Masters program in digital media, which is structured to end with internships that lead to employment. It attracts students from arts, engineering and business, deliberately mixing them on interdisciplinary teams that forces them to understand other points of view and to collaborate on projects. They have access to production facilities, digital editing suites and a large number of project rooms for highly experiential programs.

The school followed with an undergraduate program, which admitted 93 students from 400 applications in its first year. The program mixes art, business and technology instruction, with the goal of taking students passionate about and art and teaching them business and technology, while exposing business students to the art and technology of digital media. Bundled into the program is project management instruction, so that students emerge with a professional certification in project management.

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8. Brabant Kempen Region, The Netherlands

brabant_kempen.jpgThe Kempen is a 60-square-kilometer region extending from southeastern Netherlands to northeastern Belgium. Its name comes from the Latin “campina,” meaning “region of fields.” Until the 19th Century, it was a land of heath and sparse pine forests too poor to support agriculture. Then Napoleon Bonaparte dispatched a military ruler to the conquered territory of the Netherlands, and he decided that revolutionary change was in order. He organized a massive effort to collect animal and human waste from farms, villages and cities and have it worked into the soil. Years of hard work produced fertile farmland that, today, contributes to the Netherland’s #2 position in the world for the value of its agricultural exports.

Agriculture and tourism are mainstays of the economy, as in so many other rural regions. But in the Dutch Kempen, home to 108,000 people, the provincial government of North Brabant, its municipalities and intrepid individuals are applying Intelligent Community principles to build a new model of rural development.

Two brothers who own a potato farm, the van der Bornes, have become viral stars in the world of precision agriculture by publishing a stream of videos and presentation on their remarkable, self-taught uses of technology to boost yields from the field. A local success tory, the Vencomatic Group, sells its automated poultry-raising systems from South Korea to West Africa, demonstrating that a location in the countryside is no bar to global success. Across the Dutch Kempen region, that success is made up of one part strategy, two parts hard work – and a generous helping of individual initiative aimed at the common good.

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9. Rochester, New York, USA

rochester_new_york.jpgThe third-largest city in New York State, Rochester was one of America’s original boomtowns, first in the milling of flour and then as a major hub of manufacturing. The Rochester area has given birth to such famed companies as Eastman Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, Xerox and Western Union. It is the home of the University of Rochester, the Rochester Institute of Technology and Monroe Community College. As large companies downsized, Rochester and the surrounding Monroe County have seen growth in small, high-tech firms, many of them leveraging the expertise in imaging and photographic technology that is the legacy of Kodak. This progress has not come by accident, but through growing collaboration among local government, educators and business, with support from state and national government.

Beginning in 2015, the City of Rochester Department of Recreation and Youth Services has created two programs for training youth in future employment skills. The first, aimed at youth ages 14 to 20, is the Youth Employment Training program. The program teaches leadership, conflict resolution, team building and decision making skills, as well as providing resume consultation and development, interview skills development and job placement assistance. Graduates from the training program can then take their new skills to the second program, the Summer of Opportunity Program.

The Summer of Opportunity Program provides summer work experiences or vocational exploration opportunities for Rochester youth who are still in high school. The first part of the program is for younger students, ages 14 to 15, and provides them with summer career exploration and work training experiences at local private and non-profit companies. Youth trainees also receive 8 hours of life skills training, including financial literacy, professionalism, leadership and health education. After finishing this tier of the program, youth ages 16 to 20 can progress to the second tier, where they take “youth worker” positions in the public sector or with a local non-profit employer. These positions pay minimum wage and offer 20-35 hours per week of work for 7 to 8 weeks over the summer, allowing students to gain real work experience before moving on to post-secondary education or the workforce.

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10. Ipswich, Queensland, Australia

ipswich_queensland.jpgIn 2011, the city of Ipswich published a 20-year economic development plan for its population of 195,000. It forecast the addition of 292,000 new residents, who will require an additional 120,000 jobs, and will live in a network of distinct communities interwoven with centers of employment, recreational facilities and green space. The plan responded to future challenges but also to past ones. Because Ipswich offered affordable housing and an attractive lifestyle, its population has grown rapidly in the booming economy of 21st Century Australia. Yet the decline of industrial employment in the 70s and 80s had left the city with legacy of long-term unemployment and bred unacceptable levels of crime and social dislocation.

Ipswich has created a Digital Skills Initiative for all Ipswich residents, working with schools and adults in the community. The Digital Skills Initiative includes a wide range of digital skill and technology demonstration classes with many delivered for free in the city’s libraries and innovation hubs. Finally, the Council hosts the Build and Learn Fair, an event that encourages residents and visitors to build and showcase creations like robots and wood works. This event aims to give residents a hands-on experience of the new possibilities available in the Ipswich jobs market.

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11. Armidale
New South Wales, Australia
  12. Astana
  13. Olds
Alberta, Canada
14. San Diego
California, USA
  15. Sunshine Coast
Queensland, Australia
  16. Waterloo
Ontario, Canada
17. Chiayi City
  18. Tainan City
  19. Hudson
Ohio, USA
20. Winnipeg
Manitoba, Canada
  21. Western Valley
Nova Scotia, Canada
  22. Taoyuan
23. Niagara Falls
Ontario, Canada
  24. Melbourne
Victoria, Australia
  25. Hamilton
Ontario, Canada
26. Edmonton
Alberta, Canada
  27. Regional Municipality of York
Ontario, Canada
  28. Hsinchu City
29. Taitung County
  30. Grey County
Ontario, Canada
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