Jeff Heuchert, Stratford Gazette
Being selected the world’s smartest community by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) comes with its advantages, both in terms of marketing and instant recognition on an international level.
But according to one of the co-founders of the ICF, the year-long competition to find its Intelligent Community of the Year “really doesn’t matter.”
What is important, said Robert Bell, is the effect being part of the competition has on a community and its leaders, forcing them to have discussions, co-ordinate and develop a cohesive strategy for where they are heading.
Stratford, a Top 7 Intelligent Community for the second consecutive year, is ahead of the curve on many levels, said Bell, who was the guest speaker at the mayor’s State of the City address last week.
He said he had been “sipping from a firehose” since arriving in the city to witness its developments firsthand, and added he was amazed by the collaboration he has witnessed, the partnerships amongst businesses to bring new ideas to the city and the “ecosystem” being developed to support entrepreneurship.
Bell noted he has kept hearing the same ideas and principles from people he has spoken with, and suggested a clear strategy like he has seen in Stratford with digital media is a trait shared by the world’s Intelligent Communities.
Stratford, believes Bell, is a “just right” community – not too big or small, not too rich or poor, and not too much the centre of the universe, but also not too far from it.
With the broadband infrastructure of a major metropolitan city, Stratford has what it takes to succeed in the broadband economy, he added, noting with the connectivity already in place, the world is the city’s neighbour.
Stratford is joined in the Top 7 Intelligent Communities for 2012 with Austin, Texas, Oulu, Finland, Quebec City, Riverside, California, Saint John, New Brunswick, and Taichung City, Taiwan. The winner will be announced in June.
While there is no guarantee the city’s persistence in the program will pay off, Bell noted leaders with last year’s Intelligent Community, Eindhoven, Netherlands, which grabbed the top honour after its fourth or fifth attempt, were continually improving their presentation to the ICF and examining what they were doing and making improvements.
It is that kind of vision, willpower, collaboration in the community and skills that are needed to be an Intelligent Community, Bell said, noting he sees many of those qualities in Stratford.
“I urge you very much to keep aiming for that sweet spot in the broadband economy, that place that I think is increasingly reserved for a ‘just right’ community,” he added.