May 6, 2009 By News Report
Looking for ideas on how to make your municipality a more "intelligent" community? There's help available in a recently released white paper published online by the Intelligent Community Forum, an independent think tank that researches the relationship between broadband availability and economic development.
Written by the forum's executive director, Robert Bell, the paper, The Top Seven Intelligent Communities of 2009, identifies best practices for using IT to build a sustainable economy, and includes detailed case studies of the top seven communities: Bristol, Va.; Eindhoven, Netherlands; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada; Issy-les-Moulineaux, France; Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada; Stockholm, Sweden; and Tallinn, Estonia.
The paper lauds the city of Bristol for recognizing that its expertise in e-government application development was a commodity. Bristol Virginia Utilities started a consulting service that markets to local governments.
In 2001, the municipal utility and City Council agreed to offer fiber-to-the-user service, called OptiNet, to all residents and businesses, according to the white paper. By August 2008, the service had captured more than 62 percent of market share, the paper said. The network offers cable TV, broadband Internet and phone at competitive rates, and free municipal Wi-Fi hotspots.
"Where the private sector has deployed affordable and high-quality services, broadband is not an issue. But in other communities, local and regional governments have found many ways to involve themselves in spurring access to broadband for their constituents," the white paper said. "The most successful have all begun with the same first step: establishing a clear vision and communicating why broadband access matters."
The Intelligent Community Forum began its awards process in 1999. A winner from this year's top-seven intelligent communities will be announced next week at the Building the Broadband Economy international summit in New York City.
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.