US, Canadian and Taiwanese cities dominate the ‘top seven intelligent communities of 2014’ list, compiled by US think tank Intelligent Communities Forum. The widespread availability of broadband and the internet, coupled with a host of technological innovations – including a smartcard and a citizen-focused mobile application that offer urban citizens technology-based solutions to daily needs – were cited as the key innovations making these cities the most 'intelligent communities'.
The US cities of Columbus and Arlington, the Canadian cities of Toronto, Winnipeg and Kingston and the Taiwanese cities of Taipei and Hsinchu comprised the ranking, which took into account how different cities across the world used technology to solve the challenges that citizens in urban areas face.
According to Lou Zacharilla, Intelligent Communities Forum's co-founder: "Each city made it onto the 2014 list by demonstrating how they have begun to fuse technology, culture and collaboration for economic sustainability."
All seven cities were identified as having successfully seized the potential of the new ‘broadband economy’ to improve cities’ human capital. The widespread availability of broadband and the internet meant that citizens in these areas had adequate access to high-quality education resources, and all of these seven locations were able to improve information sharing between rural and national institutions – for example, by improving healthcare by using broadband to connect rural hospitals with leading medical centres.
Some cities, such as Arlington, were more successful in utilising mobile applications to allow citizens to actively participate in discussing local issues, while others, such as Hsinchu City, were more effective in improving public services through issuing citizens with a smartcard, which they could use to request local services.
A key theme was the use of public-private partnerships to cultivate innovation-friendly environments and address skills gaps. Columbus was praised for having successfully achieved economic growth through TechColumbus, which incubates and encourages the development of start-up firms. Formed as a partnership between local firms and Ohio State University, TechColumbus encourages small local firms to join a start-up accelerator programme, which offers business mentoring and seed funding to encourage growth.
In Winnipeg a partnership between local employers and the University of Winnipeg was key in increasing employment and facilitating business’ growth as the initiative matched firms’ demand for skilled employees.
Taipei’s efforts to develop a wide range of cloud-based applications, including a new 'money cloud programme' for small and medium-sized enterprises operating in Taiwan’s industrial parks, was highlighted as an example of a region able to complement its competitive ‘hard’ infrastructure with a technology-based ‘soft’ infrastructure that helps to effectively cut businesses’ operating costs.
The use of free broadband in Waterfront Toronto, North America’s largest urban renewal project, was highlighted as an important step in improving services offered to low-income residents in Toronto. Similarly, open-access broadband enabled Kingston to leverage its educational institutions by building an innovation economy, which was focused on environmental sustainability.