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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.

Recognizing Rural Communities for Their Revolutionary Efforts

$util.date("MMMM d, yyyy", $content.startDate) By Louis Zacharilla, Intelligent Communities

They used to call the place where I was raised, “The Sticks.”  That is what they would call the village of Lyons, New York, and other small towns “down there” in Manhattan, where I have lived for 30 years.  For 30 years I have tried to find and maintain a balance between both places, although a few folks in the village did refer to me as the “city slicker” for long while. Language can separate people as much as distance.

We know that there are differences in size among the places we live, and we know that there remains an inferiority complex among the world’s rural communities, small towns and hamlets.  Biases prevail, even in places that should know better, like Stockholm, Singapore and Brooklyn. In fact, the World Reference Forum still asks whether “the sticks” are further removed, geographically, than the evidently unreachable and, in the unenlightened mind, irrelevant “Middle of Nowhere.”
 
Since the dawn of the Intelligent Community movement in 1995, fewer and fewer people use those terms or ask questions like that. These are questions which reflect a time before the “Broadband Economy” presented itself in our screens. Since then the dialogue has been dramatically altered, and with it the language and perceptions of what is possible. As the Great Coral Reef was once referred to by the 18th Century explorer James Cook as ‘an insane labyrinth” (and for good reason, since in 1770 the coral ridge of Tasmania nearly sunk his ship), so it became perceived for what it is 200 year later, when the reef was declared a marine sanctuary by the Australian government. It is among the things which make life possible.  It is not so far different than small towns.
 
It took those in the sticks and the city slickers working together to make it happen in Australia.  It led to a social movement that I believe was the first salvo in the movement to protect our seas.  It will be seen, someday, as the beginning of the long road ahead to restore the balance of the earth’s ecosystem.  It also gave a boost to those smaller communities, where nature was still abundant and in balance.
 
Similarly, we hope our Rural Imperative will have an effect on the discussion of the importance of places like Pirai, Dakota County, Castelo de Vide and Mitchell. These four places, though small, submitted nomination forms in an attempt to show themselves that, like Taichung and Toronto, they were of the future.  They succeeded.  Mitchell, South Dakota (USA) likes to tell the story of how it grasped innovation, planned for the future and in the process became Intelligent. 
 
Since we announced our 2015 Theme, we have been concerned that the submissions this year may come from only cities, where urban planning is part of the policy-making landscape.  However, that would be contrary to the ICF method and dream, which is to ensure that any place people call “Home” can achieve at a global level and plan for the kind of life and economy that is sustainable.
 
As you consider whether to submit a nomination for your village, town or county, keep in mind that you too are either a “Revolutionary Community” at some level, or can be.  By nominating your community to be evaluated with giants, you are not being David against Goliath. You are indicating your confidence that the place you are building, running or promoting is not only Smart and possibly Intelligent, it is also restoring the balance which we all know is out of whack.  The “Middle of Nowhere” is no more – and has not been since 1995.  Good luck.

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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 www.intelligentcommunity.org.

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.