Located on Australia's eastern seaboard, Coffs Harbour is a tapestry of mountains, national parks, sandy beaches, quaint villages and marine reserves. Its natural bounty and busy regional airport have made it a highly desirable tourist and retirement destination. They have also granted Coffs Harbour less desirable gifts: a population that skews older than the Australian average and an economy dominated by healthcare, social assistance and seasonal accommodation, food services and retailing. As a result, the city has a markedly smaller proportion of high-income households and higher proportion of low-income households than the Australian average.
In 2009, the Council established a 2030 Strategic Plan, based on yearlong community consultation, to create a more vibrant future for this city on the sea. More than a decade earlier Nineties, Council made the decision to invest in a fiber-optic network to connect all governmental facilities. This proved persuasive to the national government, which named Coffs Harbour as one of 19 second-wave deployment zones for the National Broadband Network. Service to the first 2,600 homes was switched on in February of 2013.
To prepare Coffs Harbour for a broadband future, the community launched a Digital Enterprise program to train local businesses and institutions in digital technologies. It launched pilot programs in telemedicine, with a special focus on at-home care of seniors with chronic health issues. An Innovation Centre opened to provide office space, mentoring and incubation of new businesses, and the city focused on building working partnerships with its university and technical schools to engage students and graduates in local opportunity. It also launched art and cultural festivals that had the dual effect of strengthening the tourist economy while enriching quality of life. These steps are laying an impressive foundation for an economy that attracts and retains creative people and innovative organizations who will build a stronger future.
The third-largest city in the state of Victoria, Ballarat once was a mineral and agricultural boom town, but global market changes decimated its economy in the 1990s and drove unemployment to nearly 20%. In response, city government, community leaders and the state collaborated on a long-term economic development plan focusing on attracting ICT companies, leveraging higher education and fostering digital inclusion. Today, Ballarat has the largest technology park in Australia, home to 30 companies employing 1,400 people. Broadband penetration, at only 53% of homes, is poised to accelerate through early roll-out of Australia’s National Broadband Network. Local ICT champions, working with the city’s universities, have helped spawn a wave of startups and research institutes. The community has also invested in its at-risk youth and indigenous population with specialized training in skills and digital literacy to equip them for success in the new economy.
Armidale, with its population of 25,000, was the first mainland city in Australia to be connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN) and experience the impact of fiber speeds to the premise. That was an impressive achievement for a small city 200 km inland from Australia’s east coast, home to the Intelligent Communities of the Coffs Harbour, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Getting to that point required substantial planning, lobbying and the creation of community-wide collaboration. In 2011, Armidale formed the Digital Economy Implementation Group with representatives from city, state and Federal governments, local technology firms, the local university and technical school, the chamber of commerce and community ambassadors. Through community education and facilitation, the group helped NBN achieve an 80% connection rate to commercial and residential properties.
NBN has allowed Armidale to build a business community that might be expected of a much larger and more central place. It includes WhiteHack, a network security company; RMTek, a cloud services provider to industrial and mining facilities; Quadrant Australia, developer of special interest group travel programs; and Enertek, which brokers green energy solutions. The local school system and university Smart Farm are enthusiast adopters as well, because of high-speed broadband’s ability to bring to Armidale the best of what the world has to offer.
Preparing for a Digital Future
City leaders are determined that NBN make a major contribution to the local economy and quality of life. The city established a Digital Hub providing hands-on access to technology as well as free technology courses, technical advice and digital literacy training. A complementary Digital Enterprise program focused on the small-to-medium enterprise sector with workshops and customized training. More than 6,000 people have received training at the Digital Hub, and Digital Enterprise sessions have attracted 700 local business people. One company benefiting from the technology focus is ICT International. With the city’s help, it won a grant for business expansion and development of a new water-measuring technology that can estimate the total amount of water available in a watershed. The company is now exporting to 45 countries.
Engaging the Community
Community engagement is fundamental to the city’s progress. A community-owned composting system called City to Soil has diverted 60% of municipal waste from the landfill and produces high-quality compost that is sold back to the community. Residential take-up is high enough, at 75%, that Armidale has introduced a commercial version of the service. The city is also engaged in development of a 20-year master plan and invites community participation through a communications program called CREATE 2350. The program posts potential development projects to its Web site and invites comment and suggestions from residents. One example is a proposed A$50 million Airport Precinct Master Plan, which is the subject of online exchange and meetings with Council at locations around Armidale.
By 2035, Armidale will have been a fiber-based community for 20 years, and will be the Australian test case for how small cities in rural locations can build dynamic economies while preserving the quality of life their people treasure.
The best acts of defiance are made in pursuit of a greater good. History is complete with tales of passive resistance, armed rebellions and legends of a person or group of dedicated souls who refuse to sell-out, cave-in or toss-down the towel, no matter how overwhelming the forces stacked against them or the depth of corruption from a perverse civil order. You and I honor the private inspirations in our lives who get us out of bed and roll us forward, somehow putting in us a deeper psychic mark and recalibrated moral settings. Those whose actions are given the stamp of the “heroic” or “visionary” after their time of persistence are seen to have been clearly on the right side of the cause, while most could only see through the glass darkly. They are, in the words of my father, not deliberate and intentional provocateurs, but people who simply “stuck by their guns.” At ICF we have 145 of them.Read more
The Smart21 announcement is the first stage in ICF's annual Intelligent Community Awards cycle. Based on Intelligent Community Index questionnaires submitted by communities large and small from around the world, ICF selects 21 finalists with the potential to become one of the Forum's Top7 Intelligent Communities of the Year. The Smart21 list is announced at least 60 days before the selection of the Top7 and promoted to the world's media by ICF and the communities involved. Gaining a place among the year's Smart21 is considered a badge of honor as well as the first step greater recognition as an Intelligent Community positioned to prosper in the broadband economy.
Smart21 of 2019
Smart21 of 2018
Smart21 of 2017
Smart21 of 2016
Smart21 of 2015
Smart21 of 2014
Smart21 of 2013
Smart21 of 2012
Smart21 of 2011
Smart21 of 2010
Smart21 of 2009
Smart21 of 2008
Smart21 of 2007
Smart21 of 2006
ICF's Robert Bell interviews Marianne Archibald, Malcolm Inglis and Annette Main about Smart21 Intelligent Community Whanganui.Read more
New York City and Dublin, Ohio, USA - 21 October 2015 – The Intelligent Community Forum today named the world’s Smart21 Communities of 2016. This select group of communities will now be in contention for the prestigious designation of Intelligent Community of the Year in June 2016.Read more
Well, here we go: another Smart21 announcement day approaches, and a new group of communities – cities, towns and regions representing millions of people – will prove yet again that the future belongs to places that we may have once thought were extinct or in great danger of perishing.Read more
On January 22, ICF narrows its 2015 list of 21 really smart communities to a short-list of 7 intelligent ones. Those two words – smart and intelligent – are often confused or often used to mean the same thing. But I think they describe very different realities.
Every Intelligent Community we have seen is a Smart City. That is, it invests in information and communications technology (ICT) to deliver services, monitor operations and rejigger failing systems. That is good news for taxpayers, businesses and institutions.Read more
New York - 21 October 2014 – The Intelligent Community Forum today named the world’s Smart21 Communities of 2015. This select group of communities will now be in contention for the prestigious designation of Intelligent Community of the Year in June 2015.Read more