April 8, 2013 By Louis Zacharilla
My fifth grade teacher often tried to take the entertainer’s instinct out of me, but was evidently unsuccessful or mutated it badly. Whenever I would stand up to speak, I invariably could make the entire class laugh, enabling the room to quickly became as “non-linear” as a Marx Brothers movie. I suppose this threatened her authority, for she would say, “Please, don’t laugh when he does that. You’ll only encourage him!”
Doing things others were scared to do, or simply couldn’t think to do, was a quality I always admired in others as well. What little of that quality I have has served me well, but I know that I am not in a league where my actions can transform entire cultures and economies. However, the people I associate with are able to do just that.
My friends, I encourage YOU to welcome Mike Lazaridis, who makes his home in Waterloo, Canada and the subatomic universe. Through his work as the co-founder of BlackBerry, the developer of smartphone technology and as the mastermind of a new vision for his community called Quantum Valley, he is chosen to join our stable of global community visionaries. You can read the press and media coverage of this announcement and get a sense of who this man is, and what he has accomplished.
I’d like to write about him in another way: as a man committed to his place, his community and who lives in a world of great imagination.
Said the Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Orki, “The fewer the tools, the greater the imagination.” There are several ways to look at this, even when relating to Mike’s vision. A son of Turkish immigrants, he did not arrive in his place in life with much more than imagination, I am told. Further, not every kid in a dorm at even the best engineering school in Canada automatically goes out and creates the wireless version of crack-cocaine. USA president Obama, never to be confused with an addict of any type, was brought to tears when told that his would be taken away while he managed the affairs of the free world. Mike’s work gave millions back their imaginations. We could now imagine working anywhere we wished and the big ideas and the deals would be less likely to slip away. However even this is to trivialize the importance of his work. Like the man he quoted when we named him our Visionary of the Year, Einstein, he perceives the world and its phenomenon not as one brick atop the other, or the sum total of what can be put in the next generation of wafers, or a place in cruel ruthless pursuit of conquests but rather as a miraculous experience.
This leads naturally to his vision of exploring that quantum universe, from which generations of industries and wealth and further social conquest of the planet will evolve. It sounds downright Einsteinian to me!
Finally this: we run a think tank and a movement committed to the idea that there is no place like home. (If there is a more complex way to say that, go to the Perimeter Institute, which Mike funded in Waterloo. They are way brighter about the left-brained elements of our experience!) Mike, like Stephen Conroy, Suvi Linden, Amarzai Sangin, Scott Rourke and Andre Santini, is doing what he does with his life because he is committed to his place. Waterloo, Ontario is much the better for it, as its mayor, the irrepressible Brenda Halloran will quickly tell you.
I am not reaching for a poetic high when I tell you that people like this hear a higher pitch of existence. It is in their register, for whatever reason. While I can tell you why five criteria constitute an Intelligent Community, I cannot tell you why they, or we, see what we see or do what we do. I honestly cannot. It is simply a calling, and I will be forever amazed to know that people like Mike and these others – and many more whom we meet in our work – just keep coming. They come faster if you give them a place - a real home - for their imagination to run wild.
Please encourage them if they are in your community. They may disrupt the class or the town or the company. They may also teach you and the next generations about a higher pitch of existence.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.