DAILY NEWS Jan 29, 2013 7:31 AM - 0 comments

Canada's Smartest Tech Cities among World Leaders

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Information and communications technology can power economic growth, address social challenges and preserve and protect culture.

Cities that best embrace the technological opportunities presented by ICT developments including those in digital, social, mobile, and online media activity, and have been designated the smartest in the world, according to the  Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) and its recently released list of the 2013 Top7 Intelligent Communities of the Year.

The Top7 list includes three from North America (two cities from Canada, both in Ontario), two from Taiwan and two from Europe.

“The Top7 communities of 2013 have made innovation – based on information and communications technology –the cornerstone of their economies and fostered economic growth through high-quality employment, while increasing the quality of life of their citizens,” said Lou Zacharilla, ICF co-founder in announcing the list at the Pacific Telecommunications Council’s annual conference (PTC’13) in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

The ICF 2013 Top7 are:

Columbus, USA

Oulu, Finland

Stratford, Canada

Taichung City, Taiwan

Tallinn, Estonia

Taoyuan County, Taiwan

Toronto, Canada

Among the Top7 city accomplishments: Columbus created 29,000 new jobs in the last two years, while Oulu created 18,000 new technology jobs in the last five years. Taichung City uses ICT to help farmers boost yields and the city’s shared cloud-based system enables small firms to reduce production costs and time to market. Tallinn has expanded an industrial park by 50 per cent to 250 companies – making it the largest knowledge-based development in the Baltic region. Toronto has the largest urban renewal project currently in development in North America: Waterfront Toronto. This new community will provide Internet at 500 times the speed of conventional residential networks, a foundation that will propel Toronto to the upper levels of intelligent communities.

The ICF awards program concludes in New York City in June 2013 during ICF’s annual Summit, where one of the Top7 will succeed Riverside, California, as 2013 Intelligent Community of the Year. 

The ICF provides descriptions of the winning cities:

Stratford, Ontario, Canada.

Strategic planning, beginning in 1997, has focused preserving Stratford’s enviable quality of life, while leveraging ICT to transform its economy.

For the past 15 years, a team led by Mayor Dan Mathieson has executed on that strategy with great intensity. The city-owned utility has built out a 70 km open access fiber network with a WiFi overlay and signed sales agreements with commercial carriers to deliver triple-play and mobile services. The network enabled the Festival to significantly expand its online marketing and plays a key role in the city’s tourism strategy, which builds on the Festival’s reputation to attract “foodies,” cyclists and other target groups throughout the year.

At the same time, the city has used the network to slash its own telecom costs and power a smart meter program. Adopting the triple-helix approach to innovation, it has turned Stratford into a test bed for technology pilots for such companies as Toshiba, Research in Motion and Cisco as well as for institutions including Clemson University and the University of Waterloo (UWaterloo), springboard for Canada’s tech industry. Digital media, however, is at the core of its strategy: the city persuaded UWaterloo to open a campus in Stratford with the support of OpenText Corp. offer graduate and undergraduate studies and foster a startup culture in the city.

The near-death of the North American auto industry pushed unemployment in Stratford to 7.9 per cent as the city lost 1,600 mostly low-skilled jobs in manufacturing. But in that same era, the city also gained 700 jobs requiring ICT skills and has recently seen the revival of the local automotive industry create a labor shortage for the higher-skilled manufacturing jobs it retains. For an economy in transition, the business trends in Stratford offer validation that the city is on the right track.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Toronto is described as one of the world’s more successful places, but it is also said to be challenged to maintain its edge.

The city has become the nation’s most expensive and is experiencing an immigration-driven population surge that is expected to boost its population by 50 per cent in less than 20 years. This growth is already straining transportation systems: Toronto commuters travel longer round trips than any other commuters in the world.

The city, provincial and Federal governments are addressing these challenges with a development strategy stressing ICT, environmental sustainability and innovation.

A key component is Waterfront Toronto, North America’s largest urban renewal project, which is transforming a vast brownfield zone at the edge of Lake Ontario into a new city center with 40,000 residential units, one million sq. metres of commercial space and 300 hectares of parks.

A new centre for knowledge industries in North America’s third-largest knowledge economy, it will be served by a 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-premise network and integrate green technologies and practices into every aspect of its design and operations. But Waterfront Toronto is only the most ambitious of a range of programs that seek to keep the city’s edge sharp. Five universities have evolved specialized programs in computer science and digital media as well as a graduate program that looks broadly at the power of ICT to drive economic, social and cultural change. The MaRS Discovery District, George Brown College Gaming Incubator, Center for Global eHealth Innovation and Fashion Incubator have become “factories” for generating, incubating and accelerating innovative new businesses.

From Internet access and training in public libraries to a kids@computers program that funds technology for low-income families, Toronto is working to extend the benefits of its success to every part of society. In the process, it is preparing citizens and businesses to compete and win in a global market.

Toronto was last ranked by ICF as a Top7 intelligent community in 2005.

Profiles of the Top7 are available in the Awards section of the ICF Web site. There is a also a video about the Top7 on the ICF website.

Their full stories will be told, and lessons drawn for communities around the world, in ICF’s next book, to be published in September 2013. 

The ICF Foundation consists of over 100 communities, cities and regions that have been globally designated as Intelligent Communities and which participate in an ongoing dialogue to strengthen local economies.


For more Mediacaster Magazine coverage related to this topic, please see:

Canada's High-Tech Hub Dubbed Toronto the Technicity


Toronto Names Toronto as Canada's High Tech Hub


Industry Calls for Re-Build of Canada's Communications Infrastructure


Lack of Internet Capacity Threatens Canadian Data Transmissions


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