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1. Riverside, California, USA
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.
2. Espoo, Finland
In the far northern nations of the world, people tend to cluster southward. Espoo, Finland's second largest city, lies on the border of its biggest city and national capital, Helsinki. Both stand on Finland’s southern coast, directly across the Gulf of Finland from Tallinn, a frequent Top7 Intelligent Community and the capital of Estonia.
In 1950, Espoo was a regional municipality of 22,000, which drew its name from the Swedish words for the aspen tree and for river. Today, Espoo is still a place on a river bordered by aspen, and about 8 percent of its population still speaks Swedish as its first language.
Sixty-five years later, however, it is an industrial city of 270,000. It retains its dispersed, regional nature, however, being made of up of seven population hubs arrayed along the border with Helsinki, where many of its citizens work.
3. Hsinchu City, Taiwan
In 1980, Taiwan’s National Science Council set up the nation’s first science park in Hsinchu City, as a means to create a domestic high-tech industry. Today, the 500 companies in Hsinchu Science Park employ 150,000 people and generate US$16.6 billion in total revenue. More than 10 percent of those companies are spin-outs from one of Hsinchu’s many universities and research institutes. The 2008-09 financial crisis hit the Park hard as demand slackened for the semiconductors its companies produced. Leading companies like TSMC, UMS, Acer and Chimei Innolux shifted investment into higher-value products and services; the integrated circuit design business grew 9 percent from 2008 to 2009. These steps led to employment growth of 11% and production growth of 25% from 2006 to 2011, leaving Hsinchu with a 2012 unemployment rate of just 4.2 percent.
4. Chiayi City, Taiwan
Chiayi is a provincial city of 270,000 in southcentral Taiwan, midway between Taichung and Tainan. Ninety-five percent of its economy is in the services sector – wholesale and retail, transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and food – which employs three-quarters of the workforce.
In 2014, however, Chiayi was ranked as having the worst air quality in Taiwan, and Mayor Twu Shiing-jer, a physician, has dedicated his administration to improving life in the city in this and many other areas.
Working with ASUS, the city has established a network of cloud-connected air-quality monitoring stations called the Air Box. The results of measurement are displayed in real time on LED billboards on main access roads. A public electric bike network, with 58 charging stations, is reducing automobile trips, while an environmental education program is reaching schools and community groups. In 2015, the city succeeded in reducing fine air particulate concentration by 12%, which represented the biggest gain in the nation.
5. Tallinn, Estonia
Estonia saw a major boom from 2004 to 2007, as loan capital poured in from Scandinavian countries.
The country’s rise from Soviet occupation, beginning in 1991, had been miraculous, but the wave of investment was more than the market could usefully absorb. When the financial crisis came, it hit Estonia and its principal city of Tallinn very hard. Several thousand companies went bankrupt and layoffs, particularly of the low-skilled, rose into the tens of thousands.
Yet beneath the froth, Tallinn has put into place the foundations of ICT-based growth that is generating a strong comeback.
6. Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
Surrey is a city in transition from a suburban past to a sustainable urban future. On this road, it seeks to leave behind a reputation for sprawl, crime and limited economic potential. Home to some of the richest and poorest neighborhoods in the region, Surrey is building an innovation-based knowledge economy offering a much broader range of local opportunity.
There is no lack of potential in Surrey: it is Canada’s third fastest-growing city, which welcomes 1,000 new residents each month and where residential construction is a major industry. It is part of the growing metropolitan area of Vancouver, from which it derives most of its economic energy today. To gain greater control over its destiny, Surrey has developed a diversification strategy calling for deepening the partnership between its institutions of higher learning and local business. Development is focused on an Innovation Boulevard project, where the city, universities and business are building clusters in health technology, clean tech and advanced manufacturing. Overseeing the project is the Mayor’s Health Technology Working Group, comprised of 50 representatives from universities, a health authority, nonprofits, business associations, government and developers. Ten new health technology firms have already moved in, attracted in part by the availability of five new advanced laboratory spaces. It is one component of a master plan to create several dense and walkable city centers supporting a mix of residential and commercial space linked by light rail.
7. Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
The Sunshine Coast is a metropolitan area that spreads across 2,291 square kilometers of Australia’s coastline about 100 kilometers north of Brisbane. A sub-tropical paradise of beautiful beaches and scenic mountains, the Coast has experienced boom times and almost doubled its population since the 1980s from tourism and retirement relocation, which drove the growth of construction and retailing. But the ebbing of the commodities boom that fueled Australia’s economy has revealed the fragility of the local economy. Population growth has slowed to below the state average and demand for tourist accommodation has fallen year after year, creating an above-average unemployment rate that hits particularly hard on youth.
To help its population overcome these economic challenges, the Sunshine Coast government introduced the “Speed It Up” campaign. The campaign is designed to spread knowledge of the benefits of high-speed Internet access as well as how to obtain it. As part of the campaign, Digital Sunshine Coast has partnered with a variety of telecommunications providers in the area to display coverage maps of business grade broadband availability on its website (digitalsunshinecoast.com.au). The site also provides a free Wi-Fi Locations tool for residents to find sites with public Internet access. Finally, the Digital Sunshine Coast website includes as Want Faster Internet page with a short survey that residents can take to tell the government more about their Internet needs. The website is experiencing an average of 1000 page views per month as of 2016, with hundreds of submissions on the Speed It Up and Want Faster Internet pages. The city council is using the data gathered to negotiate better coverage areas with local telecommunications providers.
8. Keelung City, Taiwan
Keelung City borders New Taipei City on the south and the Pacific Ocean on the north. Once the 7th largest container port in the world, the city gradually lost its position due to the lack of land for expansion, rising foreign competition and the decline of the domestic coal industry, which peaked in 1968. But Keelung’s seafaring days were not behind it, thanks to the growth the passenger cruise industry. Today, 89% of inbound cruise ships dock at the Port of Keelung, bringing 690,000 passengers to Taiwan, who generate more than NTD 6 billion in revenue. The city’s future depends on how those passengers experience what locals call the Rainy Port.
Residents of Keelung City enjoy fixed broadband at 100 Mbps, reaching 90% of households. To support its tourist industry, it has established a gigabit free public Wi-Fi system in the Port of Keelung, offering users up and downloads at 30 Mbps through 1,100 hotspots. Riding on that network is the Seamless Travel Service, which provides a combined e-ticket to popular destinations, travel information and real-time schedules for the city’s extensive transit system as well as discounts at local stores and a mobile payment solution. A network of digital interactive billboards at tourist hotspots promote local attractions and let tourists search for more information. The result is what Keelong calls “the Smiling Port.”
9. Cleveland, Ohio, USA
During the Industrial Age, the city of Cleveland in Northeast Ohio was one of America's great trade and manufacturing centers. A key link in a transport system of rivers, canals and railroads, Cleveland was home to steel companies and was the place where Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller made his fortune. Its last "boom" years, however, came just after the Second World War, when its population peaked at 914,000 in 1949. The second half of the 20th Century brought industrial decline, rising unemployment and racial unrest, culminating in 1978 when Cleveland became the first US city to default on its creditors since the Great Depression. Dismissed in the press as "the mistake by the lake," Cleveland appeared to face the bleakest of futures.
Under Mayors Michael White and George Voinovich, however, the metropolitan area began to recover. New investment poured into real estate projects in the downtown area, bringing hope for the future. But traditional economic development strategies had only limited impact. At the end of the century, Cleveland had one of the highest poverty rates among large American cities, with almost one-third of adults and 47% of children living at or below the poverty line. As a result, many inner-city neighbourhoods remained troubled and the school system faced serious problems. More importantly, the economic environment in which Cleveland had to compete was changing fast. The original advantages that had powered its growth were of little value in a knowledge-based economy.
10. Yilan County, Taiwan
Nestled between two mountain ranges and the sea at the northeastern tip of the island, Yilan County is a cultural melting pot for Taiwan. Multiple indigenous tribes have settled in the area, beginning with the Kavalan people nearly 1000 years ago, followed by the Atayal people 250 years ago and finally the Han Chinese fifty years later. Due to its diverse historical influences, Yilan is home to many culture festivals, including the International Children’s Folklore and Folkgame Festival, Taiwan’s most internationally famous festival. The county’s striking location and unique culture have led to a thriving tourism industry.
Yilan’s networking demands have grown exponentially in recent history due to the rising tourism industry and the increasingly digital lifestyle of its populace. To meet this demand, the Yilan County Government has created the Promoting Universal Broadband project. The project focuses on three areas: free public Wi-Fi, FTTS and GSN/VPN. The county government has collaborated with the Taiwan central government to establish iTaiwan Wi-Fi hotspots all across Yilan. In addition, the local government of Yilan has worked with Taiwan Mobile to promote the Eland-Free Wi-Fi Plan, which provides free, Yilan-specific wireless Internet services in travel and tourist destinations. The Yilan County Government has helped to establish over 1,025 iTaiwan and Eland-Free hotspots as of 2016 with even more on the way.