Fredericton, New Brunswick has been named among the seven smartest communities in the world by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF).
The city – which features in ICF’s Top Seven Intelligent Communities of 2008 list – has been recognized for its success in building a knowledge economy through a broadband infrastructure.
Fredericton’s effective use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to substantially reduce its carbon footprint was also recognized.
New York-based ICF is a non-profit think tank that focuses on job creation and economic development in the broadband economy.
The other global communities included in ICF’s Top Seven list are: Dundee, Scotland; the Gangnam District, Seoul, South Korea; Northeast Ohio; Tallinn, Estonia; Westchester County, New York and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The announcement of the Top Seven Intelligent Communities is the second phase in ICF’s annual initiative that will culminate in the selection of the Intelligent Community of the Year in May.
The cycle started last October with ICF announcing the world’s 21 most intelligent communities.
That “Smart21” list – in addition to Fredericton – included two other Canadian cities, Edmonton, AB and Vancouver, BC.
From the 21, a panel of experts has shortlisted the top seven – and on May 16, one of the seven will be honoured as 2008’s Intelligent Community of the Year at ICF’s Building the Broadband Economy annual summit in New York City.
The selection at every stage is done by a panel of experts based on five “intelligent community indicators” developed by ICF. These are:
Broadband infrastructure – Intelligent communities – the ICF says – express a clear vision, craft effective public policies, and promote equitable access to broadband assets.
Knowledge workforce – Effective development of knowledge workers, says the ICF document “extends from the factory floor to the research lab, and from the loading dock to the call center or Web design studio.”
Innovation – Intelligent communities foster innovation by creating an environment that attracts creative people.
Digital inclusion – Such communities implement policies and programs to ensure that the benefits of technology are enjoyed by everybody – not just a privileged few.
Marketing – Intelligent communities market themselves effectively, based on knowledge of the competitive offerings of other cities and regions.
In addition, a specific theme (that changes every year) also influences the selection process.
“In 2008 our theme is sustainability,” said ICF Chairman John G. Jung. Economic viability, smart growth, and programs that reduce pollution and curb carbon emissions are all aspects of “sustainability” he said.
While commending the Top Seven communities for their success in creating a broadband network, Jung also noted that the setting up of this network was the starting point.
From there, he said, “the communities went on to develop a powerful culture of use, which proved transformative.”
In Fredericton’s case this “culture of use” and the transformation it effected has been truly dramatic.
A document on the ICF Web site describes how this was accomplished.
Though, per capita wise, it had more entrepreneurs than any other city in Canada (according to a 2002 KPMG study), Fredericton’s young entrepreneurs, until a few years ago, lacked proper access to the information highway. Broadband coverage was sparse and the cost prohibitive.
In 2000, the City Council decided it had to act.
By aggregating the demand of city government, the University and a dozen local businesses, the Council was able to purchase bulk commercial bandwidth at a more competitive cost.
The following year, Fredericton began building its own fibre network, which it has expanded every year since then to the present 22-kilometre fiber ring.
The city-owned carrier, e-Novations, operates as a co-op and provides each member with guaranteed bandwidth as well as additional peak capacity based on availability.
And e-Novations also spurred competition. Private carriers built out additional capacity, so that 70 per cent of households and 85 per cent of businesses are now connected to broadband, with monthly prices ranging from $22 for a 256Kpbs circuit up to $100 for 18 Mbps service.
The Council then decided to give wireless broadband a try.
The Fred-eZone was activated in 2003, using the city’s fibre network as its backbone and 300 WiFi access points to cover an eight-square-kilometer zone downtown as well as public facilities and retail malls.
The Council decided to that, in Fredericton, wireless access would be an intrinsic part of the infrastructure, free to all.
The reasoning was if they didn’t charge people to walk on the city’s sidewalks, why charge them for broadband access in the eZone?