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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.

Intelligent Communities Finalists Literally Don't Know When to Quit

June 24, 2013 By


On June 7, Taichung’s Secretary-General, Ching-Chih Liao, stood on the stage of Steiner Film Studios in New York, surrounded by previous Intelligent Communities of the year, from Glasgow to Riverside, and accepted the 2013 award for Taichung City, Taiwan and its 2.7 million residents.  It was the second time that tiny Taiwan has produced an Intelligent Community of the Year (Taipei was the other in 2006.)  Flush with excitement, she nearly sprinted to the stage; surprised but gracious, she went out of her way to congratulate the other six finalists, referring to them as “the real winners.”  Such emotion; so nice to see.  It reminded me of Mayor Rob van Gijzel of Eindhoven, whose acceptance remarks in 2011 remain embedded in everyone’s memory – including his.  That afternoon he spontaneously redefined the purpose of the Intelligent Community movement.  He now heads the ICF Foundation.  Madame Liao was much less circumspect.  “We did not think we would be here for at least another three or four years,” she admitted.  

For Madame Liao the audience also applauded loudly, and she applauded them right back, an Asian custom that I find revealing of generosity of spirit.  She said twice that she did not envy the jury, which had to evaluate the Top7 and then decide who would be named Number One.  Nor, she said, did she envy ICF for having to make the announcement!  (Nor do I, since we have always believed that there are no real winners.)  She then let go of a “Freudian slip,” which I have been thinking about.

While cheerfully and gently noting how proud she was for her city, her emotions became obvious.  She said that she was proud of Taichung, proud that it had survived the nearly year-long “battlefield of competition” with the others to become the global representative of our movement.  Standing behind her and listening, the words “battlefield” made me at first wince.  I was surprised.  You rarely hear people, especially as gracious as the Intelligent Community representatives, reveal themselves so honestly.  Leave it to this smart, tough and joyful Taiwanese woman to show you the heart of a champion. Handpicked by Mayor Jason Hu for her post, she again demonstrated the poise and character of Taichung, which simply has willed itself into international relevance.

But a “battlefield of competition?”  Our friendly award?  Is it really perceived that way, despite everything we do to communicate the absolute fact, noted above, which is that the Top7 are the real winners?  A family of leaders.  And they are, at least in our minds.  In discussions privately or with the media, I never refer to the Intelligent Community of the Year as the “winner,” but rather as the “recipient.”

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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.