After holding the title of the world’s most intelligent community for the past year, Toronto is ready to hand the title over to a new city – and it may stay within Canada.

Toronto is playing host this week to the Intelligent Community Forum’s annual conference. Last year, the New York-based think tank gave Toronto its intelligent community award, after a year-long process of site visits and stakeholder interviews and a vote by an international jury. Waterloo, Ont. and Calgary are previous winners. Surrey, BC is in the running this year, along with Arlington County, VA.; Columbus, Ohio; Ipswich, Australia; Mitchell, South Dakota; New Taipei City, Taiwan; and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Toronto’s winning submission cited the startups coming from incubators like Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, the new waterfront development with a fibre optic network bringing 1 Gbps speeds to every residence, the innovative film and media research and work happening at Pinewood Studios, and the revitalization of Regent Park.

Stepping in to pinch-hit for Toronto mayor John Tory, city councillor and economic development committee chair Michael Thompson said Toronto was proud to have been named the 2014 intelligent community of the year and promised the city is continuing to innovate.

“If you’re not hip to tech, clearly it’s a problem for your future,” said Thompson. “It’s important for political leaders to stress the benefits of technology. The generation behind us recognize it, and if we don’t put the infrastructure in place to get them connected I think we do a great disservice not only to ourselves, but to the next generation.”

Technology is changing everything for municipalities and for the world, said Thompson, and the potential benefits are enormous for those communities that identify and seize the opportunities brought by rapidly-emerging change and the technology now available to them. It’s about harnessing the power of technology to build a better city and a better community for all our citizens.

“Technology is become a great equalizer for many communities, municipalities and individuals around the world,” added Thompson.

Waterfront Toronto was a key driver behind Toronto’s winning bid, and John Campbell, president and CEO of the economic development and revitalization organization for Toronto’s waterfront district, told the 2015 event that their journey began in 2004, when the downtown was losing job and development to the suburbs.

The undeveloped waterfront was seen as a potential catalyst to build a new kind of intelligent city that could return jobs, development and residents to the downtown core. And the goal isn’t just attracting businesses, but building a place where people that companies want to hire will want to live, work and play.

“Our focus is on providing quality of life to attract and retain talent in our city,” said Campbell. “It’s what I call the economic development long-game.”

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