NEW YORK -- The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) has named Suwon, South Korea, as the 2010 Intelligent Community of the Year. Suwon has built the world’s fastest, large municipal network, improving connection speeds from an already impressive 32M to 1Gbps. The infrastructure is being used to enhance education, library development, and e-government.
The theme of this year's annual conference, held at NYU Poly in Brooklyn, was "The Education Last-Mile: Closing the Gap from School to Work." The conference also announced the formation of the "Intelligent Communities Association," a league of 86 cities and regions worldwide to foster communities moving forward in the broadband economy. Its first chair will be Waterloo, Canada Mayor Brenda Halloran. Waterloo won Intelligent Community of the Year in 2007.
The tone of the conference was summed up by ICF Co-founder Lou Zacharilla who said, "National governments are failing us" through their fear and filtering of information technology, financial systems chaos, and the failure of national legislatures to compromise for the greater good.
Local and regional governments now are the focus for moving communities into the broadband future. Local progress worldwide is remarkable, as the awards demonstrated.
The ICF awarded its Visionary of the Year title to New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham. With Graham's support, the Canadian maritime province, numbering a scattered population of 750,000, achieved broadband access to 100% of households, urban and rural.
This is the highest level of coverage of any North American state or province. Graham also highlighted New Brunswick's partnership with Bell Aliant to provide a fiber to the home (FTTH) network to five of the province's larger cities, with speeds topping out at 60Mbps downstream and 15Mbps up.
Three Founders Awards spotlighted significant broadband-economy projects worldwide.
The "Digital Schoolbag" project of Besançon, France, received an award for its work providing all third grade students with a multimedia computer package. Significantly the project includes workshops for the parents, to support the children's technology-enabled learning in the family setting.
ICF also gave a Founder's Award to Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA), an economic and community development zone in China's third largest city, for arguably "the world's most comprehensive effort to equip vast numbers of students with skills to compete in the broadband economy and integrate graduates into employment or entrepreneurship in the local economy."
The Washington-based Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project also received an ICF Award, for the Research Center's pioneering original research about the impact of information and communications technologies on American society.
Suwon success story
Suwon is located south of Korea's Seoul metropolitan region. It has grown to become the nation's second largest city. After one of its largest employers, Samsung Electronics, moved out, Suwon focused on smaller business and building an educated workforce and community overall. Smaller companies with fewer than 50 employees now comprise 94% of employers in the city.
Suwon put city planning and funding to work to build high-tech office parks, support local business foreign-trade missions, and develop an R&D center with 145 organizations sharing a $450 million campus, among other efforts. It also accelerated the municipal communications grid and used transportation infrastructure conduits to deploy its 1Gbps network. Eliminating leased lines saved a $250,000 annually in operating costs alone.
For digital-era literacy, Suwon increased public libraries from three in 2002 to eight today, all with public access computers. Library visitor rates jumped from 2.2 million to more than 5 million in six years. Some 5,000 older computers from libraries and government offices have been refurbished and distributed to other civic organizations that need them. Suwon provides a PC clinic for ongoing maintenance.
The city's mayor, Yong Seo Kim, summarized their broad-based approach: "Investment in education is one of the most sound and rational outlays of capital that a government can ever make." Suwon in the last seven years invested more than $360 million in upgrading school facilities, opening new schools and expanding staff funding. In 2010, its Suwon Education Development Support Plan provides for $186 million more, in 74 individual projects focusing on education for a global economy and workforce.
U.S. has two finalists among top seven
For the first time in years the United States had two finalists in the Top Seven list — Arlington, Va., and the Dublin, Ohio region. Canada, a leader in the movement, had another finalist this year with the city of Ottawa. Tallinn, Estonia, the "Silicon Valley of the Baltic," and home of Skype, made the Top Seven for the fourth time in four years.
Besides the winning Suwon, the complete list of 2010 intelligent city finalists is:
• Arlington County, Virginia – United States
• Dublin, Ohio – United States
• Dundee, Scotland – United Kingdom
• Eindhoven – Netherlands
• Ottawa, Ontario – Canada
• Tallinn – Estonia
The 2011 Intelligent Community of the Year competition opens with nominations in June 2011 with a final deadline in October. Seven new finalists will be announced at the Pacific Telecommunications Council's January 2011 conference in Honolulu. The winner will be named in New York City in May 2011.
Gillette is professor of information and communication sciences at Ball State University and a senior research fellow at the Digital Policy Institute. He has written extensively on ICT and management, and worked in academic, industry and public policy organizations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.