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By Robert Bell, John Jung, Louis Zacharilla: Intelligent Communities are those which have - whether through crisis or foresight - come to understand the enormous challenges of the Broadband Economy, and have taken conscious steps to create an economy capable of prospering in it. They are not necessarily big cities or famous technology hubs. They are located in developing nations as well as industrialized ones, suburbs as well as cities, the hinterland as well as the coast.

4…3…2…One! Seven Top Highlights of 2011

January 18, 2012 By

Honolulu (January 17, 2012) – With 24 hours to go before we make our announcement of the world’s Top Seven Intelligent Communities, there is a sense that 2012 will be new era for many communities.  I hope that our new Top Seven reflect this.  In fact, in the years to come, Honolulu may be one of these communities that will use a statewide broadband initiative to produce outcomes that will restore some of the blight and tarnish that is barely perceptible, but one of the challenges of this remarkable place.  These include an erosion of entrepreneurial talent and an inability to collaborate sufficiently among the “triple helix” of local government, academia and the private sector.  Sound familiar?  Yes, even in Paradise they experience that stuff.  

On Wednesday I was invited by the state to speak about the Intelligent Community movement, and what it might take for Hawaii’s new broadband initiative to be successful.  During the day-long series of briefings to Governor Abercrombie’s policy team and leaders of the state’s Broadband Advisory Council, I did what I usually do: I told stories about communities that have done the hard work and come through the challenges.  You can scan a room and pick out champions.  I saw a few wearing Aloha shirts on the outside and burning with the fire of the future on the inside.

I shared with them snippets from this year’s Smart21 community data and also reflections from 2011, and how last year’s Top Seven made a lasting impression on me but how many also were struggling to find a solid path.  I would like to share with you some of this, as the final four selections for my seven top moments of 2011:

#4: The People of Issy-les-Moulineaux Speak
For the fourth time, this former factory zone of the Paris metro area, which today is home to Microsoft’s largest campus outside of the USA as well as ICF’s 2009 Visionary of the Year, Mayor Andre Santini, proved again that a compelling vision and action can change lives.  In January 2011 Issy was again named to the Top Seven list.  It has hit the Top Seven list every other year since 2005. (It likes odd years.)  Issy’s affable and extraordinarily effective representative to ICF, Eric Legale, proved in June that four times on the list was not a fluke and that the work has had a sustainable impact.  He happily reported the results of a survey which revealed that 90% of the citizens of Issy said that having broadband access “has changed their lives.”  In a community which creates 1,000 new jobs every 365 days, allows an incumbent to serve for three decades and was the first place in Europe to provide outsourced city services and competitive telecom access (six broadband carriers compete for business there), I have my answer for anyone who says that France is too rigid to embrace change.

The ICF awards program is serious business.  For communities who work hard year-round and rarely get the recognition they deserve, the Awards and Summit are a chance to be recognized and celebrated.  For us, they articulate what the Intelligent Community project is all about.  But the Beatles wrote famously that “fun is the one thing money can’t buy.”  When we were scripting (and I use that word loosely) our annual Intelligent Community of the Year announcement, we were looking for a visual gag that would hold the drama in the room and perhaps even confuse people for a brief moment.  Robert had the idea which resulted in the now-famous “light bulb” announcement of 2011.  
#2 Smart Village Egypt
The most revealing finding of a recent Pew study was that in countries with substantial social unrest, social network use rose markedly in 2011.  In Egypt, 28 percent of online adults said they used social networking sites in 2011, compared to 18 percent the year before.  Online communities have proven that the thirst for community is an innate drive.  Facebook is the third largest “nation” on earth for a reason.  People need to connect.  No place was this more apparent than during my visit to Cairo.  I was there as people rushed into Tahrir Square as the Interior Ministry was shooting.  They rushed in to keep a sense of dignity and a future from fraying.  My visit and speech at Smart Village Egypt the day after the Square went mad proved to me that even amidst chaos, there are always engines that want to pull a community forward.  I want to go back and was honored when a group came forward last month to discuss an ICF Institute for Cairo.

#1 ICF’s First Institute for the Study of the Intelligent Community
In December ICF and the Intelligent Community movement left its infancy and its cradle in New York.  A dream that we have nurtured and a need communities have articulated was realized when two communities, Stratford, Canada and North Canton, Ohio agreed to be the first North American hosts for an Institute for the Study of the Intelligent Community.  These places will focus on one unique area of study about Intelligent Communities and will become conduits for communities in their nations and their regions who want to learn how to become Intelligent Communities.  We will bring our Visionaries of the Year there to speak, as well as the rest of the alumni.  Through our Institutes, the rolling dialogue we started informally will expand and persist, and our communities will continue to become platforms for innovation, where we harvest new ideas about how to re-energize communities for the 21st Century.

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Stephen G. Tom    |    Commented January 18, 2012

It is interesting to read Lou's comments and to reflect upon a common thread that is obvious but perhaps forgotten in our world of broadband technologies, policies, applications, and economic development. All of these are critical to Building the Broadband Economy. However, the common thread of interests and outcomes that I observe is the all-encompassing quest for a quality of life that sustains families, community, careers, leisure, health, and the realization of the human potential for the benefit of all...aka the "greater good" or "common good." Therefore, let us not be swept away in the flood of technological advancement. Let us harness this energy for the good of all mankind.

Mark    |    Commented January 19, 2012

THE LIGHTBULB STUNT "we were looking for a visual gag that would hold the drama in the room and perhaps even confuse people for a brief moment. Robert had the idea which resulted in the now-famous “light bulb” announcement of 2011" Not famous enough. What is the lightbulb stunt?????????????

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About the Intelligent Community Forum
The Intelligent Community Forum is a think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community. Whether in industrialized or developing nations, communities are challenged to create prosperity, stability and cultural meaning in a world where jobs, investment and knowledge increasingly depend on advances in communications. For the 21st Century community, connectivity is a double-edge sword: threatening established ways of life on the one hand, and offering powerful new tools to build prosperous, inclusive and sustainable economies on the other. ICF seeks to share the best practices of the world's Intelligent Communities in adapting to the demands of the Broadband Economy, in order to help communities everywhere find sustainable renewal and growth. More information can be found at

Robert Bell
Robert Bell is co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, where he heads its research and content development activities. He is the author of ICF's pioneering study, Benchmarking the Intelligent Community, the annual Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year white papers and other research reports issued by the Forum, and of Broadband Economies: Creating the Community of the 21st Century. Mr. Bell has also authored articles in The Municipal Journal of Telecommunications Policy, IEDC Journal, Telecommunications, Asia-Pacific Satellite and Asian Communications; and has appeared in segments of ABC World News and The Discovery Channel. A frequent keynote speaker and moderator at municipal and telecom industry events, he has also led economic development missions and study tours to cities in Asia and the US.

John Jung
ICF co-founder John G. Jung originated the Intelligent Community concept and continues to serve as the Forum's leading visionary. Formerly President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance and Calgary Economic Development Authority, he is a registered professional urban planner, urban designer and economic developer. He leads regular international business missions to US, European, Asian, Indian and Australian cities, and originated the ICF Immersion Lab program. John is a regular speaker at universities and conferences and serves as an advisor to regional and national leaders on Intelligent Community development. The author of numerous articles in planning and economic development journals, he has received global and Toronto-based awards for his work in collaboration and strategic development and sits on numerous task forces and international advisory boards.

Louis Zacharilla
ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla is the creator and presenter of the annual Smart21, Top Seven and Intelligent Community Awards and oversees ICF's media communications and development programs. He is a frequent keynote and motivational speaker and panelist, addressing audiences of tech, academic and community leaders around the world, and writes extensively for publications including American City & County, Continental Airline's in-flight magazine and Municipal World. His frequent appearances in the electronic media have included both television and radio in South Korea, China and Canada. He has served as an adjunct professor at Fordham University in New York and is a Guest Lecturer at Polytechnic University's Distinguished Speaker Series. He holds a Masters Degree from the University of Notre Dame.