November 11, 2008 By John Eger
Prepared for the Arab Urban Development Institute Conference on Knowledge Cities, Istanbul, Turkey, November 17-19, 2008
Cities across the globe are still struggling to reinvent themselves for the post-industrial economy and society foreshadowed by sociologist Daniel Bell. In their efforts to prepare themselves for the 21st century, many communities are still working to update their data infrastructure to accommodate the needs of an age in which information is the most valuable commodity.
Canada's Smart Communities effort, Dubai's Media City, Malaysia's Multimedia Corridor, and other initiatives focus mainly on the technological aspects of the post-industrial economy. San Diego even commissioned a City of the Future committee to make plans to build the first fiber-optic wired city in the country in the belief that as cities of the past were built along waterways, railroads, and interstate highways, cities of the future will be built along "information highways" -- wired and wireless information pathways connecting every home, office, school, and hospital and, through the World Wide Web, millions of other individuals and institutions around the world.
These new information infrastructures are undoubtedly important. Getting your city wired, or constructing a wireless infrastructure are important first steps to building a smart community. But you simply cannot have smart community without smart people. Put differently, getting lots of bandwidth in the ground is important. But changing the bandwidth in people's heads is more important to achieving success as a knowledge city.
Every man, woman and child needs to know and understand that the tectonic plates of the worlds economy have shifted. We are now living and working in a global knowledge age in which both information and knowledge are the new currency, but knowledge is even more important. It is the new wealth, and creativity and innovation are the tools of wealth creation.
Thus the effort to create a 21st century city is not so much about technology as it is about jobs, dollars, and quality of life. In short, it is about organizing one's community to reinvent itself for the new, knowledge-based economy and society.
Cities must prepare their citizens to take ownership of their communities and educate the next generation of leaders and workers to meet the new global challenges of what has now been termed the Creative and Innovative Economy.
At the heart of this latest effort is recognition of the vital roles that art and architecture and culture play in enhancing economic development and, ultimately, defining a "creative and innovative community" that exploits those vital linkages.
Communities that consciously invest in these broader human and financial resources are at the very forefront in preparing their citizens to meet the challenges of the rapidly evolving and now global, knowledge-based economy and society.
The task of creating any city -- housing, transport, roads and bridges, clean water electricity, schools and the list goes on -- is enormous. The task of creating a knowledge city -- a creative and innovative community -- is equally complex.
For our purpose today, to focus on the few things that I believe are essential to nurturing a creative and innovative community; I plan to concentrate my remarks on three broad areas:
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.