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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.

On the Road to the Intelligent Community of the Year

January 20, 2012 By Louis Zacharilla

This morning I woke up in Honolulu and I realized that this would be the last morning for a long while before I am able to get out of bed and walk to a balcony to look at the calm roll of the Pacific Ocean and feel the trade winds.  I also realized that this was the day when I would go the podium at the Mid-Pacific Conference Center to announce the new Top Seven.  The wheel started from New York, where Eindhoven was named Intelligent Community of the Year in June, is turning.  We are at the next phase now.  My first message on my Blackberry was from the office of Mayor Rob van Gijzel of Eindhoven.  He was asking for the email address for each of the new Top Seven, after they are named, so that he can congratulate them each personally.  If you are named a Top Seven at 1:00 PM (HPT) today, this may be the first email in your in-box tomorrow or the next day.

Last night at Sorabol Korean restaurant I had a private luncheon for the handful of Smart21 communities in Honolulu, as well as ICF supporters and jurists who are in attendance here at PTC.  It was an eclectic group on the surface,  but in addition to the smell of grilled kalbi (beef) and garlic on our clothes, we each had a role in enabling communities and the telecommunications industry to go forward.  Among many things, the PTC conference is a fantastic networking venue and so was the little wooden room in Sorabol (which I was told ICF’s Jury Chairman, Jag Rao, is the ancient name for Seoul.)

Among the highlights of the dinner was Allied Signal’s Hunter Newby sharing his vision for his new national fiber network across the United States, and Stratford (Canada) Mayor Dan Mathieson telling the group how his community (the smallest in population of this year’s Smart21) has used technology in agriculture to expand production and allow farmers to make a better living.  With the world expected to grow to 10 billion in population, agricultural communities can innovate themselves back to prominence.  

I was struck by Yuka Nagashima’s question to the representative from Oulu, Finland.  Yuka, who is the CEO of Hawaii’s High Tech Development Corporation, which is tasked with technology economic development here, wanted to know how the “triple helix” worked in Finland, given the nation’s performance, which includes  a brilliant turnaround in Oulu, which has weathered Nokia’s bumpy ride of late. Olli Loytynoja of Business Oulu explained how, in many ways, the community’s independence and distance from Helsinki, the national capitol, contributed to a persistent tribal response.  He elaborated further.  (I just wanted to know how in the world they survived 30 hours of flying to get here from Finland!  But as he spoke you could tell that they would go to any length to learn.)

As I have written and said in my speeches often, my father had one piece of advice for me and one only.  He said simply to make sure that I always surrounded myself with the best and the brightest people I could find and befriend.  In another blog, I wrote about his journey here in 1942 with the American Army and for a different purpose.  I said to the group at the end of the evening that he would have been proud to see how well I had taken his advice.

There was much more eating, laughing and bonding (and a few bottles of OB Beer were consumed) among those of us before we left and walked into the “Kona winds” of evening Oahu.  I am sure new friendships were made and some new business will be done as a result.  Most important, on the night before the announcement of the new Top Seven, we realized, as Mayor van Gijzel had said in June on the stage in New York, “we are all winners and shoulder-to-shoulder are building something the world has never seen.”

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

January 18, 2012 By Louis Zacharilla

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.

I did not really want 2011 to end, but now that it is 2012 and I am in Hawaii getting ready to learn about seven new places who have good news to announce, I am putting the old year out to sea.

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How Communities Cope with the Rise of the Machines

January 16, 2012 By Robert Bell

In 1800, 90% of Americans worked on the farm.  A century later, in 1900, 41% worked in agriculture, and another hundred years later, it was down to 2%.  The numbers have differed across the industrialized nations but the trend has been the same.  

What made the difference?  It was the rise of the machines.  Over two centuries, farming shifted from small plots and hand or animal labor to immense holdings made feasible by increasingly automated machinery.  The result was an abundance of food at historically low prices.  

From 2000 to 2007, the US economy saw a boom – the fastest growth in gross domestic product and labor productivity since the go-go decade of the 1960s.  Yet employment growth was weak.  The prime working age population, 25-54, saw only three-tenths of one percent monthly growth in jobs.  That was the slowest of any expansionary cycle since the end of World War II.  Average household income, meanwhile, actually shrank slightly – the first time on record during an economic expansion.  

What made the difference?  According to two MIT researchers, it was the rise of intelligence.  In a new book, Race Against the Machines, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee suggest that information and communications technologies (ICT) are now making business more efficient faster than labor markets can keep up.    

Advances in agriculture took centuries to reshape employment on the farm.  Industrial automation took decades to advance from low-skilled labor to skilled workers operating robots.  Even ICT took some time to get going.   When the mainframe computer in the “glass house” represented the state of the art, it had little impact.  But when there is a computer on every desk and almost every home, mobile computers (aka phones) in every hand, and the Internet and intranets to tie them all together, the potential for change skyrockets.  

E-commerce reduces demand for retail staff.  Streaming video wipes out video rental.  Kiosks in airports and hotels replace clerks.  Voice recognition and speech systems replace customer support staff, and the enterprise resource planning systems in major organizations shove aside administrative staff by the hundreds of thousands.    

These kinds of adjustments are a natural and normal part of economic life.  But now they are happening so fast.  Suddenly, it seems, we are all dancing to the tune of Moore’s Law, which forecast that the power of a silicon chip would double every 18 months.  

And it is not just in the US or other industrialized nations.  Bynjolfsson and McAfee point out that the low wages paid to factory workers in China have not protected them from the rise of the machines.  “Terry Gou, the founder and chairman of the electronics manufacturer Foxconn, announced this year a plan to purchase 1 million robots over the next three years to replace much of his workforce,” they report in a recent article in The Atlantic.  

Coping with this brave new world takes a new approach, if we are not to temporarily beggar a significant share of the world’s workers.  Bynjolfsson and McAfee argue that the same technologies now making business far more productive should be used to update and improve the educational system.  

Absolutely.  But that is only one example of a trend we have seen in Intelligent Communities around the world.  It is an example of how government, institutions and businesses must engage in highly creative collaboration to keep businesses competitive while ensuring a living wage for employees and a high quality of life for citizens.  

That is a challenging goal.  It takes strong leaders who are not afraid to collaborate.  It takes leaders who truly understand the words of Benjamin Franklin, before setting his signature to the Declaration of Independence: “Gentlemen,” he said, “if we do not now all hang together, we will all hang…separately.” 

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The Road to the Intelligent Community of the Year 2012

January 12, 2012 By Louis Zacharilla

Seven Top Moments of 2011

It was Midnight on 31 December and not far from my apartment on the Upper East Side, Lady Gaga was overlooking Times Square in a crystal mask and kissing Mayor Bloomberg on the lips.  Despite this unusual collision of culture and local politics I wasn’t looking too closely, or even thinking about 2012.  It had been a rare day off and it was my first chance to look back at a year that had zoomed past us.  2011 confirmed ICF’s deeply-held conviction that communities are the engines of innovation for local governance, the revival of cultures and global economic renewal.  Following the implementation of broadband and IT centric strategies, there has followed a slow but accelerating return of “no name communities.”  These are communities considered in decline not long ago, where today economic and social wealth are being created while the giants stagger.  2011 also demonstrated to me that the process to rebuild cultures into more civil, open societies, while giving the term “tribe” a positive definition, also took another step in the right direction.

This all continues to move ahead without national governments leading the way.  It is also a movement which does not seek institutional embrace.  Too many institutions continue to malfunction.  In 2011 the carnage from an economic transformation that has been taking place for nearly 40 years persisted.  However as it was happening, there was good news.  ICF witnessed, and continues to chronicle, a world of communities confidently and purposefully sailing toward their next phase of economic and social development.  They are not raiding jobs from other places to “create jobs,” but creating them afresh and in their own right.  It is a sight to see – not quite like Lady Gaga in her silver headdress presiding over the Crossroad of the World – but to those who need work, it will be more important.

Intelligent Communities, beginning with the Smart21 and concluding with Eindhoven being named the Intelligent Community of the Year, articulated a notion which every human being can now embrace:  that is, that every single community can look at a handful of others, like Eindhoven, Suwon, Stockholm  and the each year’s Top Seven, and claim confidently, “If they can do it, so can we.  Just show us how to get started.”  And get started many did.    

The road took John, Robert and me to many places in 2011.  Before and after our Summit in June there were visits to communities that revealed just how far beyond the simple discussion of broadband the Intelligent Community movement has moved.  For me these included a new Intelligent Community standing beautifully at the entranceway to the Arctic Circle (Oulu, Finland); the awesome little village where Vincent Van Gogh had his two most creative years (Nuenen in the Eindhoven Region) and, of course, Justin Beiber’s hometown (Stratford, Canada).  These three “no names” enjoy a quality of life and growth that any Mayor or Council will envy.  

Then there were trips to places aspiring to become like them.  These are the places where the light is beginning to appear.  “Budapest is not an Intelligent Community,” Professor Mel Horwitch assured me when I arrived in Hungary for a symposium that he had organized.  However, the fact that he had left his post at New York’s prestigious school for Innovation, Technology & Enterprise at the Polytechnic Institute of NY University tipped me off.  He has plans to change the city from inside a knowledge institution and to make an emerging business school in the heart of Budapest the place where all of Eastern Europe will go to learn how to become the next Eindhoven, Suwon or Waterloo.  I spent remarkable days and dramatic hours there, speaking to, and with, inspirational and very bright people at Mel’s new home, Central European University.  

One month later I did the same thing, except this time in Cairo, on the day Tahrir Square blew up again.  It was the same aspiration but this time in the desert at Egypt’s oasis of hope, Smart Village.  It was in this extraordinary land where I wrote two of the most heartfelt blogs I may ever write.  

Community as Canvas
Upon the death of Steve Jobs, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said that what set Jobs apart from other tech gurus was an ability “to approach everything he did like an artist.”  This quote struck me as soon as I heard it.  It has worked its way into a series of remarks I made at the STRP Festival for young digital media artists in Holland and in the ones I will give to Hawaii’s Broadband Advisory Council and state political leaders in a few days.  I believe it says a lot about business, culture and community.  It is for me a fact that creating a sustainable Intelligent Community is also a work of art, and that the modern community is a canvas waiting to be painted again and again.  Creativity in the workplace - and in the soul of a tribe that nurtures its work – will increasingly have economic consequence.

It is with the thought in mind that communities are acts of creation and recreation, that I offer a few of my seven top moments from a year filled with hundreds of them:

#7: Suvi Linden’s Visionary of the Year Address
The 2011 Visionary of the Year address in June, by former Minister of Communications Suvi Linden stirred an already excited audience at Steiner Film Studios.  The current Commissioner for the United Nations Commission for Digital Development held the crowd of Top Seven community leaders and others rapt with her clear cadence and her concise rationale for why broadband is not merely a useful technology, but a human right.  She had made history when Finland’s legislature, at her urging, passed a law which mandated the provision of access to everyone – as in everybody - in the nation.  The reverberations of that action are still being felt.  If there was ever a case that made ICF’s fourth criteria (Digital Inclusion) seem like the ultimate “no brainer,” Minister Linden‘s 20 minutes on the stage in Brooklyn, New York made it.  I will cherish also her words referring to ICF as a “warm hearted community.”  

#6:  The Spirit and the Heart of Windsor-Essex, Canada
There are moments that define character and, more and more, you can watch them on YouTube.  The moment he heard the announcement that Eindhoven was the new Intelligent Community of the Year, the heart of Windsor-Essex (Canada) Mayor Eddie Francis no doubt sunk.  It is only natural.  You do not bring a community back from near dead, and then to the point of being named the world’s most Intelligent, without the heart of a fighter somewhere inside of you.  Although the community had made (in the minds of many) an improbable run to a Top Seven spot in 2011, the spirit that brought this Ontario Province back from a punishing decade of setbacks had also lifted it to such a height that it believed it would be named Intelligent Community of the Year.  The ICF Jury decided otherwise.   However Mayor Francis, in a demonstration of class and a true understanding of what it means to be an Intelligent Community, said it all in this YouTube interview:

“You can’t become a champion unless you try.”  They tried and they succeeded in putting themselves into a position to be a place where cities like Detroit look for inspiration.  

#5:   The Red Shirts of Eindhoven.  “We’ve Got a Global Coalition Going On”
The stories you can tell about Eindhoven are endless.  For many they are the quintessential Intelligent Community.  If Eindhoven did not invent the Triple Helix concept of community development they have, like Michael Jordan had for basketball, taken it to the pinnacle of near perfection.  It may be a personal bias, but I do not believe that you can have a true team working toward re-energizing a community without an abundance of passion.  Eindhoven had it, if not in spades then in their shirts.  The surprise of 2011 was when a sea of red shirts somehow appeared for the Eindhoven delegation the moment they were named Intelligent Community of the Year.  For me, the essence of the Eindhoven wave of ’11 was revealed by Mayor Rob van Gijzel whose impassioned acceptance speech at Steiner Studios elevated Eindhoven’s success to the universal when he declared, “We are all winners.  And we have got a global coalition going on.”  In a few words he spoke for the movement on a stage his region seemed destined to take and to lead.

Coming soon: my final four selections and my report from the Top Seven Announcement in Hawaii.

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Intelligent Communities

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.