Sarnia is the largest city in Lambton County, which extends from the shores of Lake Huron in the north to the Lake St. Clair in the south. Nearly 60% of the county’s population is concentrated there, with the remaining 40% distributed across 2,800 square kilometers (695 sq mi) of the rest of the county. The sparsely populated county was, however, the site of North America’s first commercially drilled oil well. Petrochemical and refining industries are still its largest manufacturing and employment sector, and Sarnia-Lambton considers itself the center of the Great Lakes Industrial Corridor. The other mainstays of the economy are agriculture and tourism.
With this successful industrial base, Sarnia-Lambton focuses its development efforts on connecting the excluded to economic opportunity and spurring the innovation that can keep its industry strong.
The rural areas of the region have benefited from the long commitment of rural telecom operators, Brooke Telecom and Hay Communications, to their markets. Both companies continuously expand their fiber networks into rural residential markets. Brook Telecom is offering a 1 Gbps connection with unlimited usage for C$109.95 to villages of fewer than 1,500 residents as well as rural farms. Business customers in the Sarnia metro area are benefiting from a 2015 decision by BlueWater Power, a local power distribution company, to launch a fiber network division.
In July 2016, the provincial and federal governments announced initial funding for a plan to build an ultra-high-speed network serving 300 mainly rural communities in southwestern Ontario. The South-Western Integrated Fiber Technology (SWIFT) program will take 25 years to complete at a cost of C$5 billion. Lambton County has been an active driver of the program and has budgeted C$1 million as a contribution toward construction costs in its territory.
STEM Education for First Nations Youth
Lambton County is home to three First Nation communities, each with a fast-growing youth population. Two nonprofits have targeted middle-school children in these communities for science, technology, engineering and math education in partnership with the University of Waterloo. The partners present classroom workshops during the school year and operate a STEM day camp during the summer. For the past 10 years, about 75 university students have served as instructors, while members and elders of the First Nations serve as counselors, who integrate cultural experiences into the STEM teaching.
The library system of the county is bringing STEM practices of a different sort to its patrons with the opening of a Makerspace, equipped with laser cutter, vinyl cutter, 3D printer, book binder and a variety of robots for patrons to experiment with. A group of creative industry entrepreneurs have formed Makers Artists, Designers and Entrepreneurs (MADE) Lambton to help turn the interest engendered by the Makerspace into careers.
The county’s newest youth education project is the Sarnia-Lambton Youth Skills Connection program, established in 2016. YSC was launched by Lambton College in partnership with the County of Lambton, the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, the Sarnia-Lambton Industrial Alliance, the Ontario provincial government and over 20 local companies. The program provides training for youth aged 15 to 29 years, focusing on topics such as advanced manufacturing and 3D printing, web and app development, enterprise project management, business development, marketing and sales and advanced tools for crop harvesting and bio-process operations. Once youth clients have completed their training, YSC connects its graduates with industry and private companies for internships and pays for the first two months of every internship itself. Since its founding, the program has served over 150 participants and engaged more than 30 industry partners.
Innovating on an Agricultural Foundation
Sarnia-Lambton is home to the federally-funded Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, and the public-private Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, a joint venture among the county, the city and Western University. Each seeks to build on the region’s combined base of petrochemical, chemical and agriculture industries.
The latest project in this area is the Cellulosic Sugar Producers Cooperative. Farmers in the Cooperative have worked with federal and provincial agencies, Western University and private-sector companies to research opportunities and develop a business plan for converting agricultural waste into cellulosic sugars. There is a ready market for these sugars in making multiple products. In 2016, the Cooperative announced that it would partner with Comet Biorefining to build a commercial-scale plant at the TransAlta Energy Park in Sarnia-Lambton. Expected to begin operation in 2018, the plant will produce 27 million kilograms of destrose sugar syrup per year from corn stalks and wheat straw, and the Cooperative has signed agreements with a buyer to use the product in producing personal care products, plasticizers and polymers.
Building a Sustainable Energy Future
Alongside agricultural innovation, Sarnia-Lambton is focusing on renewable energy sources with the goal of eventually moving away from fossil-fuel-based feedstock. The county launched two initiatives to further this goal: the Sarnia-Lambton Bio-Hybrid & Chemistry Cluster and the Sarnia-Lambton Sustainable Energy Cluster. The Bio-Hybrid & Chemistry Cluster has attracted a number of bio-hybrid chemical companies to begin developing and testing their technologies in the county, leveraging Sarnia-Lambton’s prosperous soybean, wheat and sugar beet farms as ideal sources of crop and bio-mass raw materials for new bio-chemical technologies. The cluster has also worked with Lambton’s increasingly digital farming sector to supplant crude oil and petrochemical feedstocks. To provide state-of-the-art facilities for research in the area, Lambton College established a Center of Excellence in Energy & Bio-Industrial Technologies in 2015 and added a $12m expansion to those facilities in 2016.
In the Sustainable Energy Cluster’s first major success, Sarnia-Lambton became home to one of the largest solar projects in North America, the Enbridge/First Solar 80 MW solar farm in 2014. The county has also attracted two large wind energy projects: Suncor Energy’s Cedar Point Wind Power Project and NextEra Energy’s Jericho Energy Centre, which are currently in development. To further facilitate energy research, the county established the Lambton Energy Research Centre in 2016 as part of Lambton College’s Applied Research & Innovation umbrella. LERC is an R&D center that supports energy-focused SMEs with their technology development, validation and commercialization.
Reaching down to excluded communities and up to new technology applications for its heritage industries, Sarnia-Lambton is building an economy that serves not just its industrial center but the dispersed population of its rural areas through the power of broadband.
Smart21 2017 | 2018 | 2019
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
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
Rio is a city as famous for its natural beauty and Carnival spirit as for its crime-plagued slums. After the national capital moved to Brasilia, Rio lost economic clout to Sao Paulo, which became known as Brazil’s business hub while Rio gradually declined due to drugs, corruption and mismanagement. But ambition, good luck and better leadership have given the city a second chance. The city was one of 12 venues where the 2014 World Cup was played, and Rio also won the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Preparation for these games turned the city into a construction site, but also gave it opportunities to revitalize itself, create a better transportation system and deal with long-standing infrastructure problems, including flooding.
Information and communications technology is at the heart of the transformation. A central Operations Center was built by IBM in the aftermath of disastrous flooding in 2010. It has become the nerve center for city administration by displaying data from thousands of cameras and sensors and giving emergency managers a comprehensive view of problems and the resources available to deal with them. The city also runs a high-capacity fiber network, Rio Digital, linking 70 universities, schools and research centers as well as city facilities. But more profound has been the use of ICT to expand economic opportunity and make government better. It has built Knowledge Squares in nearly 40 low-income, crime-ridden neighborhoods. These facilities offer classrooms, labs, digital libraries, recreation areas and a cinema, and provide young people and local communities with skills training in IT, robots, graphics, Web design and video production. The city has also built 32 Casa Rio Digital facilities in partnership with Cisco, Intel and the Sequoia Foundation, which have provided digital literacy training to 69,000 citizens.
How Information Improves Services
The Rio Datamine is an open-data system that makes available vast amounts of city information as well as powering a city-hosted RioApps contest. One RioApps winner was 26-year-old computer engineer Andre Ikeda, who used data on bus transit to create an app that put real-time scheduling information into rider’s hands. The publicity and access to information created public pressure that led to sharp improvements in service.
Luck has played its part. Rio is home to the national oil company Petrobras, and the discovery of vast offshore fields has given a significant boost to the economy. Rio is now receiving twice the foreign direct investment of Sao Paulo. By continuing to open its government and empower its citizens for the digital age, the city is striving create a future worthy of its nickname: Cidade Maravilhosa or the Marvelous City.
Smart21 2013 | 2014 | 2015
In 2004, fewer than 6% of Brazilians, or 11 million people, were users of the Internet. Of these, about 6% had access to broadband connections, and 90% of them lived in Brazil’s biggest cities. Yet, in February of that year, the little city of Pirai, located about 70 kilometers (44 miles) outside Rio de Janeiro and with a population of 23,000, switched on a wireless broadband network providing 14 Mbps of connectivity to every public facility, from the town hall to public schools and street kiosks. It was an impressive feat of technology implementation. Yet it was not technology that earned Pirai a place among the Top Seven, but the broad objectives and collaborative process that made the technology possible. In 1996, Pirai elected a new mayor, Luiz Fernando de Souza, who felt strongly that communications and information technology should be part of the city’s future. The Brasilia University was invited in 1997 to develop an IT master plan for Pirai and, beginning in 2001, the city won a series of grants and loans to plan a “Pirai Digital City” project. Its primary focus was on developing an educational network linking schools, laboratories and libraries, but with the input of donors, it expanded to include efforts to bridge the digital divide with broader coverage. Mayor Souza’s government formed an advisory board made up of representatives from government, residential associations, academic and nonprofit organizations, business and labor unions to oversee the continued evolution of the plan.
For several years, funding continued to be both a challenge and opportunity. It was a challenge because the city found it impossible to obtain either grants or loans from the central government to fund deployment of the network. But it was an opportunity because lack of direct funding forced Pirai to innovate. The city formed alliances with local businesses that could provide expertise, and with a competitive telecommunications company that could help connect nodes in the wireless network. The Pirai branch of CEDERJ, a consortium of public universities offering online courses, agreed to create an Educational Technology Center on its premises to oversee implementation. These moves, plus a re-thinking of the network requirements, allowed Pirai to drive down the cost by a factor of eight, and made it possible to finance the project within the city’s budget, with only modest assistance from the national government.
The network was turned on in February 2004. Whereupon Mayor Souza’s government turned its attention to the issue of sustainability – specifically, to developing Digital Age skills among citizens and organizations in Pirai, in order to sustain the network itself and use it as a means to transform life and work. Though the network has been operating for less than a year, it seems clear that the collaborative approach that led to its creation will continue to support the growth of an intelligent community in Pirai.
In the middle of the 20th Century, Winston-Salem had a global reputation for producing a product whose use is now being banned worldwide. The product is tobacco, and its trajectory is a fair measure of the path of Winston-Salem's industrial economy, which thrived on a mix traditional to the American South of tobacco, textiles and manufacturing. All three play a role in the economy today, but none are positioned to deliver sustainable growth.
In the mid-1990s, Wake Forest University began work on a plan to connect its medical school and undergraduate campuses with a high-speed network, which ultimately resulted in a 26-mile fiber-optic ring around Winston-Salem. The university's vice president of finance and administration, Dr. John Anderson, saw the potential to use this new asset for community development. He coordinated a series of leadership meetings that, with the active support of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, created an informal working group including the top government, institutional and educational users of communications.
In 1997, they dubbed themselves WinstonNet and, a year later, staged a demonstration at a local school - attended by North Carolina's members of Congress - of video collaboration and multimedia teaching tools. In 1999, WinstonNet won a US Department of Education grant in partnership with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to connect the school system to the fiber ring and the fiber ring to the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), a nonprofit, statewide network of educational institutions. Once construction was completed, the school system gained access to the Internet at the blazing speed of 155 Mbps. In the same year, WinstonNet incorporated as a nonprofit organization, with members including the city, the county, the school system, Wake Forest and its subsidiaries, the Chamber of Commerce and the local community college. Each member paid an annual service fee for use of the network, which was now called WinstonNet. Wake Forest began to earn a return on its investment and the members gained some of the best broadband access in the world at a very competitive cost.
Citizens benefited, too. Institutional and public investment spurred demand for broadband and the private-sector investment needed to deliver it. Today, 88% of households in Winston-Salem subscribe to broadband via DSL, cable, fiber, wireless and satellite, as well as 100% of government offices and nearly every business. Carriers including AT&T, Sprint, Time Warner Telecom, ITC Deltacom and DukeNet provide speeds ranging from 256 Kbps for US$20 per month up to 8 Mbps for $55.
But the nonprofit WinstonNet was about much more than connectivity. Its real purpose was to enable Winston-Salem's transition from a manufacturing to knowledge-based economy. The WinstonNet Board believed that the community's future lay in services, logistics and biotechnology, which would place heavy demands on education and training to overcome not only the community's industrial legacy but fast growth in the immigrant population. North Carolina experienced a 37% increase in its immigrant population from 2000 to 2006, by which time Spanish speakers made up 7% of the total.
WinstonNet developed a three-pronged strategy to attack the problem. In 2003, the organization dedicated its first Community Computer Lab at a recreation center. Over the next year, it opened a total of 30 sites offering free computer access to children and adults, with Wake Forest University and Forsyth Technical Community College leading the project and Microsoft and Cisco Foundation providing funding. Today, there are 44 labs operating in community centers, churches, schools and libraries, managing more than 3,500 email accounts and logging over 75,000 user sessions per year.
In 2005, WinstonNet partnered with One Economy, a national nonprofit, using a grant from Cisco, to build a community Web portal. The Beehive Web portal was launched in 2006. With content in English and Spanish at a 5th grade reading level, the portal provides information on money, health, jobs, family, immigration, taxes, government services and computer training and support. The library system has taken responsibility for maintaining the portal, which according to One Economy, is now number three in the nation for the most "hits" to a community Web portal.
In 2006, WinstonNet put the last piece in place through a partnership with Forsyth County Libraries that created a sustainable computer training program. A three-year grant from state government permitted WinstonNet to hire a full-time coordinator, who has created a volunteer group of 40+ trainers, created a standard curriculum of courses and developed a certification program. Classes are taught in both English and Spanish. In its first year, the program completed 189 classes with total attendance of just under 1,000 people. WinstonNet is now developing, in partnership with a local nonprofit, a set of classes for visually impaired and physically challenged computer users as well.
While working to raise the skills level of the entire community, WinstonNet has also contributed to technology and economic development. In 2002, WinstonNet became North Carolina's first Regional High Speed Networking Hub (GigaPoP), boosting Internet connection speeds to 622 Mbps. In 2007, WinstonNet switched on a proof-of-concept WiFi network covering 1 square mile (2.5 km2) as a first step in creating what the organization calls "ubiquitous access to knowledge and information for everyone." Wireless Winston is a new public-private partnership backed by anchor tenancy agreements with the top employers in the community. Its goals are to reduce telecom costs, enhance education, improve student-teacher-parent communication and improve public health and safety.
In 2004, Targacept, a biopharmaceutical company spun out from R.J. Reynolds, joined WinstonNet in a cooperative program to demonstrate state-of-the-art "grid computing" in local schools. WinstonNet is now exploring development of a supercomputing center to be housed at the Piedmont Triad Community Research Park, where Wake Forest is constructing a high-performance data center. This research park, anchored in Winston-Salem's historic downtown business district, will provide 5.7 million square feet (529,547 m2) of "green" commercial space for life science research on land donated to the city by R.J. Reynolds. It is being developed by another public-private partnership called Idealliance and is currently home to five buildings including the Biotechnology Research Facility of Wake Forest University Health Sciences.
Other public and public-private organizations are adding momentum to the development process. The Piedmont Triad Entrepreneurial Network was formed in 2004 to offer programs and resources to fast-growing small businesses in the areas of education, mentoring, networking and capital formation. Wake Forest is developing the Angell Center for Entrepreneurship as an incubator housing 3-5 start-ups at a time for up to 12 months. Among its tenants will be winners of the Triad Entrepreneurial Initiative's annual business plan competition.
In addition to actively supporting these efforts, the city of Winston-Salem has deployed ICT to improve its services. In 2007, it opened a Citizen Contact Center providing one telephone number for access to all city services. Greater convenience for citizens resulted in a significant reduction in total call volume as more service requests were satisfied on the first call. The MyCityofWS service allows citizens to establish a profile on the City's Web site that defines their interests and location, so they can be notified by email of relevant new information. The fire department uses a wireless dispatch system with data routing and imaging, which has helped the department exceed standards for response time and effectiveness.
How does Winston-Salem measure the results of its many investments and partnerships? There have certainly been economic successes. Winston-Salem and Forsyth County now count 37,000 biotech employees as residents, and biotech companies contribute an estimated $10 billion in annual revenue to the area. Dell Computer opened a manufacturing facility in Forsyth County in 2005 that will create another 1,500 jobs and contribute at least $100 million in new investment. But Winston-Salem also measures progress in human terms. WinstonNet is now in discussions with the school district and community leaders on development of a program to place computers in the homes of low-income students. The program proposal covers funding, curriculum integration, teacher training, technical staffing, hardware and broadband connections. If WinstonNet is successful in attracting funding, as it expects, the program will start in 2008/09 with 550 students in middle schools with high percentages of low-income students. Success, then, is measured not only in today's jobs. It is also measured by the community's ability to build a more prosperous and inclusive Broadband Economy for tomorrow's citizens.
Population: 223,000 (Winston-Salem), 320,919 (Forsyth County)
Labor Force: 183,742 (Forsyth County)
Westchester County is a 500-square-mile (1295 km2) region, with a population of just under one million, located at a geographic and demographic crossroads. It lies between New York City on its southern border and the state's relatively rural "upstate" region to the north. Known for some of America's wealthiest commuter towns, Westchester is also home to a fast-growing immigrant and low-income population, today making up about 35% of the total. Its workforce of nearly half a million people generates an impressive 10% of all US patents.
Crossroads, of course, are traditionally hubs of commerce. Under the leadership of County Executive Andrew Spano, Westchester has taken major strides to keep its geographic and demographic advantages relevant in the Broadband Economy.
Broadband and Quality of Life
The county has long considered quality of life to be its strongest advantage in attracting middle and upper-income residents and competitive employers. Its Intelligent Community strategy has focused on maintaining this intangible but essential element.
Mr. Spano came to office in 1998 with the belief that the county's future would depend heavily on telecommunications. Aside from a cluster of corporate headquarters nicknamed "The Platinum Mile," the county had fallen behind most of the areas with which it competed for people and jobs. Discussions with major telecom carriers made it clear that they were far more interested in winning competitive battles in New York City than investing in Westchester. The county's response was to conceive the Westchester Telecom Network, a multi-gigabit fiber backbone that now extends over 800 miles (1287 km) into every corner of the county. Its development was made possible by collaboration. The county government worked with 43 local governments, an independent library system, major hospitals and dozens of school and water districts to pool communication budgets worth $50 million over five years. This long and intensive effort provided all the incentive needed for a cable TV company, Cablevision Lightpath, to build the network. Losing customers worth $50 million per year also sparked the interest of the region's carriers, which subsequently built and lit three OC192 (9900 Mbps) fiber rings within the county to create one of the best local telecom infrastructures in the United States. Today, residential and business customers can select from broadband options ranging from 768 kbps for $15 up to 50 mbps for $90 per month. Over 3,500 companies have connected directly to the Westchester Telecom Network, as well as more than half of all municipal agencies in the county, and all of the county's schools, libraries and hospitals.
The network has permitted Westchester to create, attract and retain innovative organizations. E-government programs built on the network's foundation include FirstFind.info, a virtual library that provides general and local information to low-level readers and adults with limited English skills. The Shared Criminal Justice Data Warehouse, winner of a 2006 county achievement award, is used by county, local, state and New York City police departments. It offers a powerful search system that produces meaningful results from even vague and incomplete data, and provides access to aerial photography and GIS mapping. A revamped county Web site has become a primary communications tools and receives 22,000 visitors per day, compared with 12,000 in 2004. The network also played a direct role in attracting major employers to the county, including Nokia, New York Life Insurance and Morgan Stanley. But small, innovative organizations have benefited as well, including animation company Blue Sky Studios (animator of the movie Ice Age) and Pace University Online Learning for Trade Unions, which creates distance learning programs in telecommunications.
Promoting Business Growth
Like all Intelligent Communities, Westchester has clearly seen that broadband is not enough to secure a prosperous future. To create an inclusive and vital local economy, it has launched successful programs to promote business growth, improve the skills of the workforce and fight digital exclusion.
The county's Industrial Development Agency and state agencies offer tax abatement and Revolving Loan Fund and Technology Investment Fund programs targeting small business. Private investors including Morgan Stanley, MMV Financial and First Round Capital are also active in the county. The Westchester Information Technology Cluster is a virtual corporation supported by county government and business groups that works to match the needs of potential buyers to its database of more than 1,500 technology specialists at over 180 small-to-midsized technology companies. The Westchester Not-For-Profit Technology Council provides a similar service to nonprofits in need of technology assistance by matching them with tech-savvy volunteers. Reaching beyond the US border, Westchester launched in 2007 a Web portal called US Channels to promote trade between county companies and the world, and has published a Chinese-language electronic magazine in DVD format.
Spreading the Wealth
Westchester has partnered with its neighbor, Fairfield County in Connecticut, to win a $5 million, 3-year US Government grant for a "Talent for Growth" program. It aims to create a talent-driven system linking education, workforce and economic development partners with regional businesses, in order to develop a pipeline of skilled workers and improve the mobility of workers and communications systems. Another partnership, with New York State counties, targets "green workers." The Green Talent Pipeline unites the county governments with private and public employers to focus on "green" workforce development, economic development and education, to leverage the region's initial successes in developing clean technologies.
To help bridge the digital divide, the county runs a Westchester Scholars Program, which awards computers, software, connectivity and training to 50 students from low-income families per year. A Westchester Access program distributes older computers from county and local government to nonprofits, many of which use them as incentives to bring low-income adults into computer and Web training programs. The county also funds a large network of computers and connectivity at 41 library locations throughout Westchester.
Since the Westchester Telecom Network began service in 2001, this crossroads community has placed significant bets on its future. The expanding web of investments in Web-based applications, business growth, talent development and inclusion seem certain to power its growth for decades to come.
Labor Force: 499,472
Smart21 2008 | 2009
Spokane, the largest city on the east side of Washington State, with a population of 196,000, has long been removed both geographically and economically from the fast-growing Seattle area that includes the City of Redmond, home of software giant Microsoft. The prosperity of the City of Spokane in the 19th and early 20th centuries was based on resource extraction, and its history includes the silver boom, the timber boom and a trading boom that followed the coming of the railroads. Their legacy was a downtown area filled with graceful historic buildings set on wide streets above the magnificent falls of the Spokane River. But the power of Spokane’s traditional industries to create jobs and prosperity had run its course and, by the 1980s, the city was struggling for economic vitality.
Private and Public Investment
The software boom on the west side of the State; however, was dramatizing the existence of new opportunities and a mix of private-sector and far-sighted public-sector investment began to lay the foundations for a new economy. The private sector saw promise in the Spokane area and began installing broadband connectivity, from fiber to XDSL and cable modem service. Public-sector investment included Spokane’s Educational Metropolitan Area Network, a gigabit Ethernet connection to all classrooms in more than 53 schools and colleges, an Inland Northwest Community Access Network that offers Internet access, training and social service resources to the economically disadvantaged; and a state-funded rural fiber network deployed by Inland Northwest Health Services connecting Spokane’s health care community with the region.
In 1996, a professor at Eastern Washington University, Dr. Steve Simmons, coined the term “Terabyte Triangle” which described Spokane’s 30-block triangular region around the downtown core, which offers one of the densest concentrations of high-speed connectivity in the U.S. Investments valued at more than $1 billion have transformed Spokane, and generated a “Downtown Renaissance” which has launched over 450 new and proposed public and private construction projects to bring new vitality and vigor to downtown Spokane. Building on this regional high-speed infrastructure, Spokane has created a public/private collaboration called the Virtual Possibilities Network, using funding from the local utility, Avista Corporation, in order to donate dark fiber infrastructure for research projects at local universities. And the City itself uses this connectivity for a full range of services from GIS mapping to finding rooms and resources for the homeless, from networking all libraries and community centers to ensuring that police and firefighters have wireless Internet access aboard their vehicles. Through many steps, large and small, Spokane is building broadband into the life of the City, the region and its residents, and using it as a lever to create a more competitive economy.
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.
A High Tech Taskforce
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 called SmartRiverside, 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.
In the News
Read the latest updates about Riverside.
Labor Force: 160,700
Intelligent Community of the Year 2012
Smart21 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012
Top7 2011 | 2012