Toronto has been named on a list of the world’s most innovative hot spots for information and communications technology by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF).
The annual practice of naming a “Smart 21″ list of cities, then paring it down to seven intelligent communities, and finally to one winner also includes Stratford, Ont. It is Strartford’s second year in a row to land on the top seven list, but Toronto hasn’t received the distinction since 2005.
Toronto is “one of the world’s more successful places” the ICF states in a press release, but facing challenges. Population growth is causing the public transit system to buckle, saddling commuters with the longest round trips of anywhere else on the planet. But projects like Waterfront Toronto redeem that trouble by envisioning an ICT-driven community.
The project on the shore of Lake Ontario near Toronto’s downtown core and seeks to revitalize the brownfield zone stretching for kilometers. It plans to do so with 40,000 new residential units, 1 million square meters of commercial space, and 300 hectares of parkland. Residents and businesses will be wired to a 1 Gbps fibre network provided by Beanfield Metroconnect. (It’s previously stated Internet speeds for residents will be 100 Mbps and businesses could access up to 10 Gbps speeds).
The community will be permeated by a freely accessible Wi-Fit network and deliver modern services like IPTV and VoIP phone lines. Plans are in the works for an online portal that will connect businesses located in the new development.
Also credited for Toronto’s inclusion on the list are the public-private business accelerator MaRS Discovery District, the George Brown College Gaming Incubator, the Center for Global eHealth Innovation, and Fashion Incubator. Internet access and computer training for kids, plus a kids@computer program that funds technology for low-income families also won the city innovation points.
Stratford, best known for its Shakespeare Festival, is crediting an effort started in 1997 to develop ICT around the town’s vibrant arts community.
Stratford has been benchmarking itself against the other top-listed communities since it was first ranked in the top 7 in 2011, says Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson.
“It validates much of what we’re doing in our social and economic plans as it relates to future growth and sustainability,” he said. “No one enters or puts their name forward not to finish first.”
Canadian cities that didn’t make the cut from the earlier Smart 21 list are Winnipeg and Kingston, Ont. There have been two Canadian cities to be named the most intelligent – Calgary shared the title with Seoul in 2002, and Waterloo, Ont. won it in 2007.
The winner for 2013’s most intelligent community will be named at a New York conference held June 5 to 7.
With notes from Howard Solomon