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The Smart21 Communities of 2012

The 2012 Smart21 honorees - listed below in alphabetical order - include communities from five nations.  Over half are communities that appear on the list for the first time.  Of the 2012 list, 10 have appeared among the Smart21 before, which is typical of the ICF’s awards programs, as communities continue to demonstrate progress in their quest to be named Intelligent Community of the Year. 








Arlington County, Virginia
The smallest self-governing county in the USA, Arlington has thrived in the shadow of Washington DC thanks to the “Arlington Way,” a tradition of community involvement and collaborative leadership involving government, businesses, institutions and citizens.  The county has the highest concentration of workers in science, technology and creative industries in the Washington metro area, and an outstanding public and private educational system.  But it faces challenges, including the expected relocation of tens of thousands of US government workers out of the county, decreased affordability of housing, and rising competition for corporate tenants from surrounding areas.  Arlington's response is to focus on raising the value of the county as a place to live, work and grow a business.  Arlington has attracted the ultra-high-speed National Lambda Rail broadband network and begun construction of a fiber network to serve county government and schools.  It has forged partnerships with local universities, technology companies and Federal government agencies to make itself a test bed for innovation and spur the development of new companies.  Arlington is a highly diverse community, with significant Hispanic, African-American and Asian/Pacific Island populations.  The county's entrepreneurship education programs have made notable gains in skills training for minority business people.  This is typical of a community that, for all of its economic success, devotes resources to digital inclusion through community centers, hotspots, and subsidized or free home Internet access for low-income citizens.  The theme of the county's latest marketing campaign is "Brainpower – Arlington's Alternative Energy."  If the community leaders of Arlington County have anything to say, it is an energy resource that will never run dry.  www.arlingtonva.us

  United States


Austin, Texas
In the late Eighties, fourteen semiconductor manufacturers and the US government created a partnership called SEMATECH to solve common manufacturing problems.  The selection of Austin as its headquarters sparked a technology boom.  Growth was so robust for so long that the Austin economy began to look recession-proof – until the dot-com collapse of 2001 tripled the unemployment rate.  In response, city government partnered with the Chamber of Commerce on a long-term economic development strategy that led to a nearly $6 billion increase in regional payrolls over five years.  A second five-year plan launched in 2010 seeks to add another $11 billion.  Austin's successful tech companies – including such major names as Freescale, Samsung, Facebook, eBay and Altera – are bolstered by rates of Internet access far exceeding US averages, a highly educated workforce and the presence of multiple universities.  But achieving the 2015 goal will take more than repeating the past.  Austin faces a workforce challenge: only 4% of the homegrown population attends higher education and only half of secondary school graduates emerge "college-ready."  A significant low-income population accounts for this performance.  Technology commercialization and tech transfers also present a challenge, despite high rates of patents issued for developments at the University of Texas in Austin, due to shortages of seed funding and expertise in building a business.  A program that puts College Enrollment Managers into public schools to guide the choices made by students has helped boost the graduation rate for low-income students 14 percentage points to 75%.  The City Council has also created an Emerging Technologies Program to provide a single point of contact for entrepreneurs, tech businesses and Austin's many incubators.  It offers consulting, matchmaking and expert advice on where in Austin to find the resources a growing company needs. It is through this kind of public-private collaboration that Austin will achieve the growth it needs to maintain its place as America's second Silicon Valley.  www.austintexas.gov

  United States


Barcelona, Catalonia
Spain's second largest city, Barcelona is a financial, tourist, exhibition and cultural center on the Mediterranean coast.  In this city, tech-based innovation has a physical address: 22@Barcelona, a digital district that is the home of a series of projects uniting business, the university sector and government to create economic growth and improve the city's quality of life.  Aiming to regenerate an old industrial zone known as the "Catalan Manchester," the city created 22@ to house its growing information and communications technology cluster, which includes global brands like HP, IBM and Fujitsu as well as homegrown innovators.  To lay the foundation, city government blanketed much of Barcelona with a WiFi mesh to run city services and deliver Internet access to citizens and businesses.  Within the district, the city began piloting technologies from charging stations for electric vehicles to fiber to the premise.  22@ is home to Barcelona's business incubator, called Media TIC, which also houses the "Cibernarium," an education center that has provided digital literacy training to nearly half a million citizens over the past 10 years.  Going one step further, a project called Virtual Memories engages secondary school students to develop multimedia projects in collaboration with elderly citizens, preserving their memories while introducing them to the potential of digital technologies.  Barcelona is also using ICT to bring citizens new ways to become involved in civic life, from digital signs displaying text messages submitted by residents to a "Fix My Street" open data initiative that uses online reporting by citizens to set priorities for public works.  With this range of projects, Barcelona aims to create an environment where the world's most innovative companies will feel right at home.  www.bcn.cat

  Spain   1,600,000


Columbus Region, Ohio
The Columbus Region is centered on Columbus, the state capital, and includes five surrounding suburbs and cities, of which one – Dublin – has been a Top Seven Intelligent Community for the past two years.  A complex region, Columbus contains urban and rural areas, a wide range of income levels, highly-rated universities and colleges as well as traditional industries, from automotive to logistics, which are undergoing severe stress.  Fostering tech startups and attracting innovative employers is crucial to its future, but the region has historically been challenged to commercialize its R&D output.  It has also seen its per-capita income erode over the past decade as job creation favored low-skill, low-value occupations.  The trend has affected not only family income but the public-sector budgets that depend on income tax revenue as well.  The Columbus Region attacked these challenges through partnerships bridging across government, business and university sectors.  Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman convened a Broadband Retreat that led to development of the first Broadband Strategic Plan for the city, which led to a doubling of the city's fiber network in less than four years.  Regional institutions and the governments of surrounding cities made their own fiber investments to support government operations, education and R&D.  The first regional economic development plan, Columbus 2020, set a goal of adding 150,000 new net jobs and increasing per-capita income by 30% by 2020.  The region's signature innovation was TechColumbus, a public-private organization that identifies and fosters intellectual property from the region's leading schools and institutions, incubates new companies, and connects them to seed and venture capital.  Since 2007, TechColumbus has engaged more than 1,400 entrepreneurs and invested $17 million in startups.  These companies in turn have generated over $320 million in revenue, raised more than $400 million in additional capital and created over 1,300 jobs with salaries 44% higher than the average wage.    www.columbus.gov    www.techcolumbus.org

  United States   1,800,000


Curitiba, Paraná
Urban planning works.  That is the lesson of Curitiba, which has engaged in proactive planning for its future for nearly 40 years.  While other Brazilian cities welcomed heavy industry, Curitiba accepted only non-polluters and developed an industrial district with so much green space that it was derided as a “golf course” until it filled up with more than 3,500 companies.  Beginning in the 1970s, the master plan laid out streets, public transportation, shopping, industrial and residential areas.  Today, clean water reaches 100% and sanitation 93% of the population, and the city offers a range of services still rare in emerging market nations: municipal healthcare, education and daycare networks, neighborhood libraries, and sports and culture facilities near mass transport terminals.  City buses travel in separate lanes from the rest of traffic and provide electronic ticketing for riders and fleet management via 3G mobile broadband.   Curitiba's next goal is to translate its success in economic development into the broadband economy.  An open access fiber network serves the city and much of the state, ensuring high levels of service to business.  In keeping with Brazil's National Broadband Plan, the city is deploying a wireless overlay to provide free Internet access in low-income neighborhoods.  The city has developed Curitiba Technoparque to turn the intellectual output of its 55 colleges and universities into innovative technologies.  From 2008 to 2009, Curitiba grew its high-tech companies by 7% and high-tech employment by 25%. Developments like these have given Curitiba an average per-capita income that is 86% higher than that of Brazil.   www.agenciacuritiba.com.br  www.curitiba.pr.gov.br



Dakota County, Minnesota
Stretching from the Minneapolis border in the north to rural areas in the south, Dakota County has been an economic success story.  Since 1990, it has grown a diversified economy in manufacturing, information technology, food, energy and chemicals, and has seen its population grow by 45%.  But the success formula of the past two decades has gradually lost its power.  The county's best available building sites are occupied, and the multinational companies that are its biggest employers have downsized local employment.  Dakota Future, a county-wide economic development organization, has responded by driving its members and partners to take a more proactive approach to their joint future.  The county is generally well-served with commercial broadband, but coverage in less populated areas lags the region's cities.  The county is now speeding planned fiber build-outs that serve county, local government and school district needs.  It is also coordinating the network projects of local government and making unused fiber assets available to the private sector to motivate expanded wired and wireless coverage.  In education, the county is well-served by community colleges with innovative technology programs, and local school districts are now collaborating with them to increase STEM education in the K-12 grades.  The county's most intriguing effort is the Dakota Future Innovation Network.  Because the county's economy is so diverse, few companies interact regularly and share information and best practices with their peers.  The Innovation Network establishes cross-industry networks in such areas as advanced computing and lean industrial processes, and organizes regular meetings that combine education and person-to-person networking.  The goal is to consciously replicate the kind of effects that happen naturally in industrial clusters, and to do it across diverse industries.  If it is successful, this quiet effort could have transformative effects across Dakota County.  www.dakotafuture.com

  United States


Danville, Virginia
Forty years ago, Danville was the economic powerhouse of south-central Virginia.  But the demise of tobacco farming and textile manufacturing kicked the props out from under the local economy.  By the start of the 21st Century, the community had a 15% unemployment rate and a workforce whose limited education was a poor preparation for careers in the broadband economy.  But like many small rural cities, Danville owned its own electric utility, which deployed a fiber network throughout the city to better control its operations.  It was a small next step to connect city facilities and schools, and add a WiFi overlay for public safety and law enforcement.  In 2007, the city decided to open the network, branded nDanville, to private ISPs that would deliver service to businesses and residents.  Having achieved breakeven, nDanville is beginning construction of a fiber-to-the-home network to greatly expand the broadband capacity available to residents.  But it has already made its mark in economic development terms.  An historic textile mill, long abandoned, is now undergoing renovation as a Tier 3 data center, for which the nDanville network proved the dealmaker.  And such projects are not taking place in a vacuum.  The public school system offers a full array of educational technology, from smart boards to iPads, and learning labs in technologies such as robotics and CADD.  The Galileo Magnet High School offers instruction focused on technology careers for high-performing students.  While 73% of public school students are on a free or reduced lunch program – a standard measure of poverty – the same percentage of high school graduates in 2011 pursued college degrees.  Danville has also collaborated with the celebrated Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to create an Institute for Advanced Learning and Research that delivers an innovative STEM curriculum to grades K-12.  This wide ranging effort is spurring local entrepreneurship and has convinced companies like US Green Energy and Ecomnets, which produces low-energy computers, to open new facilities and continue to accelerate Danville's new economic momentum.  www.danville-va.gov  See "Danville Transforms Its Economy With Fiber" by Andrew Cohill, Broadband Communities.  

  United States


Durango, State of Durango
Durango is capital of one of Mexico's poorest states, where per-capita income is two-thirds of the national average and agriculture, mining, forestry and retail dominate the economy.  Its leaders are committed to a more prosperous future but face many obstacles.  One is a lack of trust in government, created by a national history of weak accountability.  Mexico also faces the violence and insecurity forged by its long war with narcotics traffickers.  And the digital revolution is still in its early stages in Durango: only 37% of households own a computer and 27% have Internet access.  Nonetheless, Durango's City Council has moved on multiple fronts to change the community's destiny.  Through an agreement with Telmex and a foundation funded by Telmex owner Carlos Slim, Durango is installing WiFi hotspots in schools, libraries and public places, with 25 operational to date and 100 planned for 2013.  A new incentive program distributes laptops to high-performing students in the school system.  In April 2011, Durango introduced a technology transfer program that helps steer local universities and technology schools through the commercialization process for new technologies, trains small-to-midsize companies in entrepreneurship, and incubates the start-up of new firms.  Durango has also invested in a government network to reduce operating costs, as well as e-government systems.  E-government not only provides efficiency gains but increases transparency.  Durango has developed a municipal GIS system and integrated multiple systems into a database platform that provides a unified view of income and disbursements.  E-government has focused on citizen services, from paying property taxes to online processes for notarization, land use, construction, traffic violations and other common tasks.  A citizen call center now receives service requests, complaints and job applications and ensures that they are routed to the right departments.  A municipal monitoring system provides video surveillance, including license plate recognition software, which has already had a measurable impact on public safety.  All of these changes, and more to come, are branded as Digital Durango, which is becoming synonymous with progress in the eyes of its people.  www.municipiodurango.gob.mx

  Mexico   580,000


Frankfurt, Hesse
If Europe has an equivalent of Silicon Valley, it lies in a region with Frankfurt as its heart.  About 5,000 software firms there – including SAP, Symantec, IHK Darmstadt Infosys and Software AG – employ 25,000 people and generate 1 billion Euros in annual turnover.  Frankfurt is home to DE-CIX, Germany's highest capacity Internet hub, which handles 35% of all European Internet traffic.  As the largest city in the Hessen region, Frankfurt is also a premier financial center with 300 banks, including Europe's Central Bank, and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, home of the DAX.  It functions as Europe's leading air and rail center as well, and provides security clearance for all air cargo entering Europe.  Yet the city is rated among the top five in the world for livability, thanks for a mix of developed and wooded land, two winegrowing areas, numerous spas and a national park. Maintaining this balance of livability and growth in an increasingly competitive global market is the challenge to which the leaders of Frankfurt must respond.  www.frankfurt.de   www.hessenagentur.de

  Germany   655,000


Heraklion, Crete
One of Europe's first civilizations, the Minoans, was born on Crete 3,500 years ago.  But in the post-war period of the 20th Century, Greece's development was hindered by decades of civil war and dictatorship.  The capital of Crete, the fast-growing city of Heraklion has thus only recently become a contender in the global economy.  With an economy heavily dependent on tourism, it lags behind Europe in digital literacy and broadband penetration, and faces steady growth in its over-65 population.  To change the broadband equation, the city granted rights-of-way to four telecom providers, which has led to near 100% availability of broadband.  The municipality has also built a fiber network to connect 150 government locations, while the University of Crete has connected the island's schools.  Broadband penetration has climbed to over 50% for households and 74% for businesses.  A free wireless overlay network has logged 800,000 sessions since 2008.  The city has also made substantial investments in e-government services and established six training centers providing free digital skills training.  To promote innovation, the University of Crete works with the Chamber of Commerce and government to identify training needs, connect graduates to job opportunities, and provide consultation for both young entrepreneurs and job seekers.  Supported by European Union funding, the University Students Entrepreneurship Program focuses on educating students in business start-up and providing a lab environment for the prototyping and testing of new products and services.  From 2003 to 2005, the program nurtured 20 prototype projects, which yielded three new start-up companies and a promising product to be developed by consortium of existing firms.  A 15-year-old Science and Technology Park houses new ventures as well as guiding instructors and graduates in turning university-generated ideas into commercial products and services.  Innovations like these are setting a new standard for Greece and moving Heraklion into the broadband economy.  www.heraklion.gr



Ipswich, Queensland
Ipswich is the oldest city in the state of Queensland but one with its eyes set most firmly on the future.  As early as 1996, Ipswich had a digital inclusion policy for its library.  When Australia's National Broadband Network called for proposals for local deployment in 2009, Ipswich decided that its best opportunity lay in joining forces with neighboring cities and promoting a "Western Corridor National Broadband Network" as a logical site.  The strategy worked and NBN put 2 of its total 19 nationwide First Release sites in the Corridor.  But First Release sites, which affect established housing, are only a small part of NBN deployment; 26 new development sites in Ipswich are separately scheduled for FTTH connection by March 2012.  The community's success in the high-stakes NBN game is a testament to its long commitment to strategy and planning.  In the wave of industrial decline of the 70s and 80s, Ipswich became famous in Australia for long-term unemployment.  Its current unemployment rate of 4.6%, among the lowest in the state, is due in part to China's hunger for raw materials but more to a series of bold economic development plans issued beginning in 2004.  Responding to the post-industrial crisis, city leaders launched successful efforts to attract two universities and create new retail and mixed-use developments including a data center and fiber network. The latest version of the plan projects a near tripling of the population and the need to create 120,000 new jobs through 2031.  It includes an InfoCity Plan that details how its new NBN broadband assets will be used to deploy e-business, e-learning, e-health and e-government services.  It commits Ipswich to aggressive digital literacy training and support for individuals and local businesses to help them seize the opportunities that NBN will bring.  Rather than waiting for the network and hoping that good will come of it, Ipswich has put in place the building blocks of a digital future.  www.ipswich.qld.gov.au

  Australia   170,000


New Taipei City
The capital city of a nation tends to cast a long shadow.  That shadow is a daily presence in New Taipei City (NTPC), a former county surrounding Taiwan's capital city of Taipei that was incorporated as the nation's largest and newest municipality at the end of 2010.  NTPC is mountainous, which means 80% of residents live on just half of its land.  The result is a severe urban-rural divide, which is matched by a digital one.  Thirty percent of residents – generally the elderly and aboriginal populations – have no computer, a high number by Taiwanese standards.  To tackle these challenges, NTPC has limited resources: its per-capita tax dollar transfer from central government is less than half that of Taipei.  And the magnetic pull of the capital city tends to drain talent and investment from NTPC.  On the positive side, however, the national government's M-Taiwan project has installed an open-access fiber backbone in NTPC for use by private carriers.  NTPC has leveraged this investment by subsidizing carriers to extend the network into its mountainous regions and new trade parks.  Of the 88% of households with Internet access, 62% have fiber-based connections to date, with a goal of connecting all schools and 80% of households at 100 Mbps by 2016.  NTPC is also home to 22 universities and colleges, of which 3 are among the top 100 universities in Asia, and graduates 37,000 students annually.  NTPC's government encourages these schools to co-found incubators and launch join innovation projects with the business sector.  Much of that business development effort is focused on two industrial parks.  In one, the government is redeveloping and combining several existing and successful industrial parks into a home for international ICT and digital media companies, with the goal of creating 80,000 jobs.  With nearly 100% of public services online, and innovative access and training schemes bringing thousands of citizens online for the first time, NTPC is poised to become a global center for ICT innovation.  www.ntpc.gov.tw



Over the past 200 years, Oulu has seen industries come and go, from tar and wood in the age of sail to leather goods, fishing and heavy equipment manufacturing.  When heavy industry went into steep decline, the Nokia Research Center and small-to-midsize enterprises (SMEs) became Oulu's biggest employers.  But city leaders remained alert to "the Nokia threat" – employment concentrated in a single large company – and founded the Oulu Technology Park to incubate more SMEs.  This was followed in the Eighties by a Technopolis park and the Oulu Innovation Alliance in 2008.  The Nokia threat materialized in the new century as mobile communications shifted from voice to data, forcing the company to reorganize.  But since the start of the financial crisis in 2007, Oulu has managed to create 18,000 jobs in high technology, thanks to risk-taking in education and strong public-private collaboration.  The University of Oulu is Finland's second largest, with six faculties and 16,000 students, yet is only one of several high-quality institutions.  To strengthen their economic impact, Oulu has guided the formation of multiple R&D organizations, from the Center for Internet Excellence to Oulu Urban Living Labs.  They are platforms for innovation where business and researchers collaborate to advance technology and test it in real-world situations.  When Ericsson opened a new R&D center in Oulu, it cited the city's unique research environment.  The government of Oulu has also created an intensive culture of use for information and communications technologies.  The PanOULU WLAN Network provides free wireless coverage through 1,800 access points.  The Competence Oulu 400 Project has trained more than 9,000 mostly elderly people, and the OmaOulu Citizen's Web Portal simplifies e-government with a customizable page for every citizen and advanced social media systems.  Highly educated citizens working in synch with business, educators and government has created a dynamic economy ready for the risks and rewards of a global market.  www.businessoulu.com

  Finland   142,000


Prospect, South Australia
Prospect has made the most of its position as a suburb of Adelaide, capital of the state of South Australia.  Its residents enjoy full employment with a high percentage of skilled workers bringing home above-average wages.  Small-to-midsize business in retail, health, professional services, finance and insurance dominate the local economy.  Developers have been gentrifying its business center and upgrading its housing since 2008.  But the City Council received an unwelcome shock when a recent survey revealed the city to have one of the lowest uptakes of broadband service in the metro area.  Given the normal demographics of broadband, the result made no sense – until further investigation revealed that Prospect's aging copper-wire infrastructure was unable to provide ASDL and frequently struggled to support even dial-up service.  Prospect's economic future was at risk, particularly because home-based businesses – which are normally heavy users of broadband – made up an estimated 50% of small companies.  Prospect responded by developing one of Australia's first Digital Economy Strategies.  Winning awards from government associations, it also won something of much greater value: Prospect was named as a roll-out site for Australia's National Broadband Network.  Construction will begin at the end of 2011 and is expected to bring A$11m into the economy.  The Council launched a public communications campaign to alert citizens to the coming change and collect their email addresses – a simple but effective first step toward online citizenship.  It developed Web portals for its retail sector and introduced a Digital Entrepreneurship Training Program to teach local businesses how to use the Web to increase revenues, improve efficiency and decrease costs.  It began planning e-government services in collaboration with state authorities.  Through an accelerating series of such steps, Prospect is building demand for 100 Mbps broadband that will begin reaching households in 2011 and light up a bright future for the city.  www.prospect.sa.gov.au 



Quebec City, Quebec
Quebec City has long enjoyed the benefits that accrue to a provincial capital that is also the economic and cultural hub of the province. In the midst of recession, its unemployment rate is less than 5%.  Home to major universities, it ranks #1 in Canada and #2 in North America for university students per capita, and has the nation's largest per capita concentration of researchers.  Regional GDP has grown 30% in the past 10 years, driven largely by R&D and high-tech businesses.  Yet in the 1980s, Quebec City accounted for only 3% of high-tech jobs in the entire province.  What transformed a political capital into a technology capital?  It was a decision by local government to interconnect the city's universities and business community.  Planning for Quebec's first technology center, Quebec Metro High Tech Park, began in 1988.  It is now home to nearly 100 companies employing 5,000 people.  The Park's management team continues to advise and steer promising applications from universities into commercial development.  And the innovation effort has expanded far beyond the Park.  An Insurance and Financial Services Development Center and National School of Interactive Entertainment drive university-business innovation in those sectors.  The Telehealth/Clinical Mobility Consortium is testing an online clinical communications system that is already attracting new investment into the city.  An association of research organizations and companies has launched an open innovation program called Quebec Seeks Solutions, which identifies unsolved industrial problems and fosters collaboration to suggest solutions.  The city's success has attracted multiple communications carriers, which have created near-ubiquitous broadband coverage, and a further half billion Canadian dollars is being invested in fiber to the premise and 4G wireless. And like the city's future, this platform for innovation is not just for those with money: a partnership with ZAP Quebec has created 45 free wireless access points serving more than 50,000 users.  www.quebecinternational.ca  www.ville.quebec.qc.ca/en





Riverside, California
At the end of the last century, Riverside was a bedroom community and university town, agricultural center and warehouse hub in the desert 60 miles from Los Angeles.  It also had a large population of poor and poorly educated residents and a signal failure to retain many of the 55,000 graduates leaving its institutions of higher learning.  In 2004, the mayor and a community college dean convened a High Tech Taskforce to figure out how to channel some of California's high-tech growth into their community.  It became the Riverside Technology CEO Forum, which led a multi-sector effort to change the city's destiny.  The city built a fiber network to connect its operations as well as the University Research Park.  A free WiFi network now offers up to 1 Mbps service through 1,600 access points, and exploding demand has led multiple commercial carriers to deploy high-speed broadband across the city.  Riding the network is an array of award-winning e-government applications, from dynamic traffic management to graffiti tracking and removal.  Riverside has also worked to leverage its universities in multiple ways.  College 311, a Web-based hub for educational social and community services, aims to double the number of Riverside youth who complete college.  Targeting five knowledge-intensive industries, Riverside and its partners have launched innovation efforts from a highly-acclaimed virtual secondary school to an Innovation Center offering incubation space, business acceleration and interaction with angel and venture investors.  These efforts have already attracted 35 high-tech companies and established 20 tech start-ups.  In 2006, Riverside started a digital inclusion program, using its free WiFi network, to provide technology training, free computers and software to all of the city's low-income families.  Making it happen is Project Bridge, which provides recycled IT equipment to 1,500 new families each year.  The equipment is refurbished by reformed gang members, who learn valuable skills; Project Bridge is southern California's largest recycler of e-waste, and the project is funded by eBay sale of excess equipment.  From the streets to the research lab, Riverside is ready for the digital age.   www.riversideca.gov 

  United States


Saint John, New Brunswick
Most of the world celebrated the start of the new century in 2000, but it was a time for mourning in Saint John.  A shipbuilding contract from the Canadian government came to an end and a major food manufacturer closed its plant in the same year.  A long period of industrial decline had suddenly reached crisis point.  Despite being home to New Brunswick's telephone company, NBTel, and a branch of the University of New Brunswick (UNB), Saint John developed some of the poorest neighborhoods in the province.  But while it had Canada's largest per capita decline in manufacturing from 1989 to 2003, it also saw 8% growth in services, double the Canadian average.  To accelerate that positive trend, the city created a partnership with education, health care, provincial government, cultural institutions and business.  It targeted ICT, life sciences, tourism, energy and advanced manufacturing for growth.  Its timing was good: a local cable TV company (owned by a local entrepreneur) had just launched a competitive battle with NBTel that accelerated broadband deployment.  In a strategy called True Growth, the city engaged with local employers and educators to identify and recruit skilled young people emerging from secondary school and university.  It also recruited skilled immigrants and launched a mentorship program to connect immigrant entrepreneurs with business executives.  UNB did its part by partnering with a major employer to create an Executive MBA program for working executives.  Meanwhile, a group of local entrepreneurs and angel investors formed PropellICT, a technology incubator with a difference.  PropellICT focused on mentorship instead of office space, pairing entrepreneurs with senior business executives.  In its first 3 years, PropellICT nurtured 21 start-ups, of which Radian6 became its most successful and best known, and went on to host the region's first angel investor conferences. Meanwhile, local executives formed the Business Community Anti-Poverty Initiative, which attacked the root causes of multi-generation poverty, from helping new mothers properly nurture their children to tutoring students and intervening with at-risk teens.  As it entered the second decade of the new century, Saint John found itself with much to celebrate and much more to do.  www.saintjohn.ca  www.enterprisesj.com  See Saint John celebrate its Smart21 designation in a new advertising campaign.

  Canada   68,000


Stratford, Ontario
Founded as a mill town on the river Avon, Stratford developed an economy made up of automotive manufacturing, agriculture and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the city's largest employer.  But while vital, agriculture is no great generator of good-paying jobs, and North American automotive manufacturing faces historic challenges.  Stratford's leaders have moved with speed and determination to create a new foundation for prosperity based on digital media.  The city-owned utility has built out a 70-km open access fiber network with a WiFi overlay.  Not content with the speed at which private companies deployed services, the utility has launched its own commercial and residential ISP offering connectivity, including fiber to premise, at half the cost of the competition.  Stratford has also partnered with the University of Waterloo (UW), the Shakespeare Festival and leading IT companies to open a UW Stratford Campus focusing on advanced business and digital media studies.  UW Stratford welcomed its first class of graduate students this year to a new C$25m digital media building.  At the same time, Stratford created a new Institute for Digital Media focusing on broadband and content policy, and became the founding hub of a C$11m Canadian Digital Media Network center of excellence.  The city school system has even introduced "DIGI" awards for digital media created by secondary school students to ensure that the innovation culture spreads far and wide.  But innovation in Stratford is not confined to the arts.  Stratford General Hospital operates an e-health portal used by 85% of the city's family physicians.  Among other services, it provides remote diagnosis of X-ray images submitted over the network, and the hospital has more than doubled the number of radiologists on staff to meet demand.  Two large-scale data centers for major banks are under construction or expansion, and entrepreneurial "lone eagles" are developing smartphone apps, online collaborative-creation tools and GPS applications.  With new foundations firmly in place, Stratford sees a digital future filled with promise.  www.city.stratford.on.ca  

  Canada   32,000


Taichung City
At the end of 2010, the county and city of Taichung were merged, create a massive metropolis of over 2,000 km2 (850 square miles).  For all of the administrative headaches it brought, the merger created an opportunity to make Taichung's companies, government, transportation systems, and business parks work more efficiently together, while also aiming to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by millions of tons.  The city has, over time, invested side-by-side with Taiwan's telecommunications carriers; as a result, Taichung now has 80% coverage for both WiMAX wireless and fiber broadband, with 100% expected within 5 years.  Using this network, Taichung has worked steadily to streamline the way business operates.  A new RFID system at the port automates the clearing of shipping containers for exit, slashing the time trucks spend idling at the gate.  Taichung's Industrial Technology Research Institute has introduced 47 precision manufacturers to a new a shared, cloud-based Engineering Data Bank that reduces purchasing costs and time-to-market.  It is the first of a series of such joint projects to harness ICT for industrial applications, safety, healthcare, energy savings and lifestyle.  In one, business park tenants are jointly analyzing data on energy consumption and launching projects to increase their efficiency.  City government is seeking similar efficiencies in its service to citizens: it has consolidated contact centers into one number for all services and has seen citizen satisfaction rates source to over 98%.  Integrating ICT systems into the city's bus network, making service more transparent and convenient, has doubled ridership in three years and saved an estimated 1 million tons of greenhouse gases.  The city even promotes greater literacy with a platform that allows students to read books online, take comprehension tests and print certificates to receive credit from their teachers.  The nearly 10,000 books in the system have generated 5.5 million certificates.  With the efficiency and environmental drive still in its infancy, the global economy can expect to hear much more from Taichung City.  www.taichung.gov.tw

  Taiwan   2,650,000


Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas
Tuxtla Gutiérrez is the capital of the state of Chiapas, which lies on Mexico's Pacific coast on the nation's southern border.  Geography dictates two key factors in the life of the city.  Chiapas is home to ancient Mayan ruins, remarkable scenery and vibrant arts and culture, which drive a thriving tourist economy.  The state's position as a gateway to Mexico, however, also makes it a transit point for Mexico's drug cartels, which threatens public safety.  Tuxtla Gutiérrez has turned to information and communications technology to help make the best of both situations.  The city starts with some advantages.  It has a much higher literacy rate and lower poverty rate than the state average.  Sixty percent of households have a PC and 50% have Internet access, though broadband has only a 30% penetration rate to date.  The city has invested in making government more efficient, raising the standards of the tourist industry, and increasing public safety.  The city's intranet system provides administrative, financial, workflow and GIS applications.  A Web portal lets citizens and businesses file permits, pay taxes and fees and even open a business.  Users can instantly check the status of any application to the city, which raises barriers to corruption.  The city also offers professional training to tourism businesses and conducts online marketing to promote the city as a destination.  To improve public safety, the city has networked police and fire units and operates a 24/7 contact center.  Its most innovative program is called Vigilante Tax Driver: a mobile reporting "network" of 3,500 taxi drivers.  Each receives a mobile phone in return for calling in reports on crime, road conditions and other issues.  The calls go to a contact center, where they are logged into a Web-based platform that uses GPS data from the phones to plot incidents, track and report outcomes.  The program has identified drug distribution hubs, aided in breaking up car theft rings, helped recover kidnapping victims, and reported more than 90,000 problems with streetlights, trash collection and potholes. It is an innovative mix of people and ICT brought to address one of the city's great challenges.  www.tuxtla.gob.mx

  Mexico   533,000


Winnipeg, Manitoba
Located at the beginning of Canada's great and fertile western plains, Winnipeg got its start as a grain trading center.  The city dominates the rural province of Manitoba, containing 62% of its population and producing 64% of its GDP.  It is a city with a diversified economy, from finance to manufacturing to tourism, but where agriculture runs through the economy and culture like a deep river.  Community leaders have identified as key challenges an increasing shortage of qualified workers and shortfalls in its ecosystem for innovation. Provincial government has helped with one issue by offering an income tax rebate to university students who remain in the province after graduation.  An IT association operates another program that eases immigration for skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs.  Winnipeg also seeks to tap the talents of its aboriginal or First Nations population.  With broadband already available to 85% of premises, a Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund is helping community-based ISPs to extend coverage to 67 rural towns and villages.  The University of Winnipeg and partners have developed a yearlong training program to prepare First Nations students for careers in IT, and graduated its first class in 2010.  To stimulate more start-ups, the University, province, city and businesses have partnered in a broad range of institutes, research centers and tech parks to generate and commercialize new intellectual property.  The range of industries is diverse, but agriculture and environment predominate.  The Composite Innovations Center is one example.  A business-university joint venture, it seeks to develop and commercialize composite structure with uniquely valuable properties from naturally occurring materials.  It is involved with more than 80 industrial clients and has developed and transferred more than 10 new technologies to the private sector.  By leveraging its historic strengths, Winnipeg expects to create a future far more prosperous than its past.  www.winnipeg.ca

  Canada   742,000

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