The small American rural city of Ashland appeared on our Smart21 list for the first time in 2007. Located in the mountains of southern Oregon, Ashland (population 22,000) has a seasonal economy built on forestry and, as home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, on tourism.
Both are seasonal businesses, so Ashland set out in 1997 to diversify its economy by building a metropolitan fiber network. The deployment went well: from 1997 to 2006, it helped add 517 businesses to a town of just over 10,000 postal addresses. New companies sprang up in e-commerce and audio books as well as such esoteric technologies as the handling of unexploded ordinance.Read more
People who live in big metropolises, like New York City, London or Hong Kong, often say that they can always find someone within a few miles who has a special skill they need to complete some project or build a business. I’ve pointed out that the close proximity of millions of people with so many different skills is part of what has made cities successful economic engines during the industrial era.Read more
You have never seen the work of Ms. Hadam Sung and her sexy dance cover group from Korea, Bambino. She is a “nugu” to you (I’ll explain that one later). On the Internet, however, she is a record-breaking superstar whose talents are cherished throughout Asia. Thanks to broadband, they are exported worldwide. Broadband and innovation, the golden combo, have made it happen for her. Not to mention her hard work and her talent.Read more
In my last post, I wrote about the ladder of opportunity created by a remarkable high school in Winnipeg – created, not alone, but in collaboration with colleges, universities and with the active support of city government. Now I want to write about the next rungs that lead from building skills to building companies.Read more
In early April, I was in the city of Winnipeg in the Canadian Midwest. There I got a lesson in the construction of ladders. Not the kind of ladder on which I make the dangerous climb to clean out my gutters. The kind that helps people of all ages to access opportunity.Read more
The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) is the original smart cities organization formed in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s – initially as the Canadian Smart Cities Institute (CSCI), which worked with the World Teleport Association to organize SMART95, the first smart city conference, held in Toronto in September 1995. The CSCI evolved into the Intelligent Community Forum as a global, but New York City-based non-profit think tank, when it moved from Canada to NYC in the late 1990’s. So, yes, we have been around for a considerable time.Read more
I recently spent two intensive days visiting the 2016 Intelligent Community of the Year, Montreal, in Quebec, Canada. While there, I learned that the world may be a lot more hopeful place than you might think. (For a taste of the experience, see the video compiled by my hosts below.)Read more
The Jury has again warned me.
Before I leave for our annual Top7 site visits I get the same thoughtful warning from members of ICF’s international awards jury. It goes something like this, “Beware of the ‘Potemkin Village’ stunt that these cities may use on you once inside their borders. They will try to show you their best parts, not their broken ones.” The Jury has recommended in the past that we include a second person on our site visits. The second would serve as the provocateur for ICF. This makes sense because I am often there to perform necessary cheerleading with the media, and to remind other stakeholders in the cities why their city was chosen. So far, however, we have determined that the cost to the host community does not justify this.Read more
Psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik discovered that people have a better memory for incomplete tasks than for complete ones. Not surprisingly, when we finish a project, we file it away. But when it remains “in limbo,” it stays active in our minds. This is how I describe the “inner lives” and the real, on-the-ground activities of Intelligent Communities. While policies are in place, they are on shifting sand. The communities I see and like are a wave of unfinished business and ideas being thrown into places that have been disrupted and were once reeling. It is the right approach, but it is also why netizens in places like Surrey, Canada (@SurreyBC) will post comments that utter a sense of disbelief and skepticism over learning that they have made an international list that ranks them high among cities. Some call it skepticism, others a PR stunt (others worse), although the majority cheer the news because an outsider has recognized their hard work.Read more
I’ve written before about the ways that small towns and rural areas can take advantage of broadband Internet connections to gain access to global economic opportunities, educational and cultural resources, even the virtual equivalents of coffee shops that used to be only available in big cities.
Perhaps the biggest remaining barrier to a 21st century rural renaissance is access to world class health care.Read more