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City with smarts
Future looks bright for Waterloo after Intelligent Community prize
LUISA D'AMATO
NEW YORK CITY (May 19, 2007)


Celebrating with the Intelligent Community of the Year trophy in New York yesterday are (from left) Waterloo CAO Simon Farbrother, Mayor Brenda Halloran, Shirley Fenton and Coun. Mark Whaley.


It's only just begun. As a result of being named the world's most intelligent community, Waterloo can look forward to more globally oriented businesses settling here, more highly educated workers wanting to move here and more innovation for everyone.

Those are the predictions of euphoric Waterloo representatives after the Intelligent Community Forum announced yesterday that Waterloo is the winner among seven finalists worldwide.

The top intelligent community is chosen by a combination of an international jury decision and a statistical breakdown of information about each community, compiled by a research firm.

Among the qualities judged are: how well connected the citizens are to the Internet, how well educated its workers are, how innovative and co-operative the community is, and how well it markets itself.

On all those counts, the city of Waterloo is "a tidal wave of a town," said Lou Zacharilla, director of development for the forum, a non-profit think-tank based in Manhattan.

"The town that invented the BlackBerry . . . they have created the Nirvana of intelligent communities," he said after a two-day conference entitled Building the Broadband Economy.

He praised not only the research done at Waterloo's two universities and its high-technology organizations and businesses, but also the "magnificence" of its philanthropy, including the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Excited Waterloo officials said the designation would bring immediate and long-lasting benefits.

"Now we're going to be able to go global," Mayor Brenda Halloran said after she accepted the award from the forum, flanked by Coun. Mark Whaley, University of Waterloo computer systems group research associate Shirley Fenton and Waterloo's chief administrative officer, Simon Farbrother, all of whom worked for two years to get the designation.

Halloran and others predicted other communities will now start flocking to Waterloo to see how things are done, and that its reputation will be enhanced among business leaders and highly educated workers alike.

Last year's winner of the award, Taipei, received more than 400 visits from other communities worldwide.

Waterloo already plans to host two international conferences as an intelligent community: one in October on how broadband technology can save energy and another in May 2008 when representatives from other countries visit New York, Waterloo and other North American cities as part of a continental tour of "intelligent communities."

"I see more companies wanting to have Waterloo as their home. These will be global-thinking companies," Fenton said as she considered Waterloo's future.

She also envisioned better technology for the average citizen, leading to a more democratic society.

For example, people could watch webcasts of city council meetings from their homes and could pass around a "virtual microphone," asking questions that would get immediate answers from staff and politicians.

A project with the Waterloo Public Library, which allows highly skilled immigrants to find out about Waterloo online before they even move here, is just the beginning of using the Internet to make information more publicly accessible.

"We're at the tip of the iceberg," she said.

Councillor Whaley said the award gives Waterloo more leverage to attract the best-educated workers in the world.

"It gives Waterloo a chance to tell its story on a larger stage," he said. "That was our mission 30 months ago when we started."

Chief administrative officer Farbrother agreed Waterloo's currency has now soared.

"Reputation is incredibly important, and today the city of Waterloo's reputation went up," he said. "That will have a positive impact socially, politically, culturally and, of course, economically."

Regional Coun. Sean Strickland said Waterloo has a long history of innovation.

The University of Waterloo pioneered co-operative education in Canada and pioneered a controversial policy to allow its students and professors, rather than the university, to own discoveries they made from university-based research. This added to the region's culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Looking ahead, he'd like to see the community brought closer through the Internet, with a community portal allowing citizens to make medical appointments, check bus schedules and find out about community resources .

"Internet can build community," he said.

"If you structure it right, through collaboration, it can really be a community-building tool."

There's lots to learn from other communities, he added.

Earlier at the conference, Strickland and other delegates from Waterloo heard about communities in Sweden where citizens can go online to see what the waiting times are at the local health clinic and hospital emergency room. They heard about Tallinn, Estonia, one of the finalists competing against Waterloo, where citizens vote online, not at ballot boxes, in local and national elections. In Bettendorf, Iowa, students who didn't understand what was said in class, or who were away from school that day, can catch up online, with tutors available until 9:30 p.m. each day.

Another idea was shared on Thursday, at a reception for the top intelligent communities hosted 30 floors above Times Square by the Ontario government, Toronto Hydro and the Canadian Consulate in New York.

New York City Coun. Gale Brewer told the international crowd a story about how the police can make good use of technology normally in the domain of teenagers.

She said her friend's teenage son was recently jumped by four other boys, and he and his mother went to the police station to report the incident. The boy knew a couple of his attackers slightly, and the police gave him a book of mug shot photos to look through, but the victim didn't recognize anyone.

Then he asked if there was a computer in the precinct station, and looked up the assailants easily on Facebook, a communication tool where users often post their photos on their profiles and send messages to one other.

All these ideas are a resource, and Waterloo won't stand still, but will keep improving, Strickland said. "There's so much potential to make our community more wired, more connected, more productive. This has been a real eye-opening experience."

[email protected]

OTHER CONTENDERS

Ottawa-Gatineau

Headquarters of Canada's telecommunications industry.

Issy-les-Moulineaux, a suburb of Paris

89 per cent of its population uses the Internet daily, compared with a French average of 56 per cent.

Tallinn, Estonia

Started its technological journey by enabling its population to see Scandinavian broadcasts, which led to its embrace of Western values.

Gangnam District of Seoul, South Korea

Has numerous Internet kiosks, where citizens can apply for a building permit, or make a complaint about a restaurant's cleanliness.

Dundee and Sunderland, U.K.

Both applicants built high-tech infrastructures from the ashes of failed industrial economies based on shipbuilding, textiles and mining.

ON THE WEB:

www.intelligentwaterloo.com
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Intelligent Community of the Year
Applicable also to the Smart21 and Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year
Awarded to a city, region or community with a documented strategy for creating a Digital Age economy that uses broadband and information technology to attract leading-edge businesses, stimulate job creation, generate economic growth, and improve the delivery of government services. The community must demonstrate that its strategy has produced measurable results in one or more of the following areas:

-Attracting new business to the community or stimulating their formation
-New job creation
-Creating training programs to equip citizens with knowledge-worker skills
-New technology infrastructure investment, whether of “hard” assets, services or software
-Improvements in the delivery of government and public services such as education, administration, law enforcement or citizen participation
-Innovation in business processes and government procedures
-Ensuring access to broadband and IT resources for low-income and at-risk populations

http://www.intelligentcommunity.org/...ubarticlenbr=3

Check out this video of Waterloo:
http://www.intelligentwaterloo.com/en/iw_video.html
 

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I See Skyscrapers
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Awesome. On a personal note, I start my internship at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in the fall. As a lifelong resident of KW, I'm rather proud of this city and the recognition it is receiving.
 

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"The Ignorant Fool"
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I love Canada. Beauty and brains. :D
 

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No surprise considering all the high-tech and upscale universities and corporations based in Waterloo, and I always knew Waterloo graduates had brains. :) Certainly makes me very envious, I want to get a job in Waterloo, but have very little work experience to show for it. But I'm young, I've got a shot.
 

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Mr. Haney(Cruz) for Pres.
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Hey, what's happening on the UW campus with the new Quantum-Nano building?
 

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Speaking of UW, they're close to a deal to build a new campus in Stratford, which will really be a huge boost to the city's economy and educational sector. If it offers a course, I like, I may consider going there, even though I already have a college degree. I knew I made a huge mistake when I chose Fanshawe over Conestoga. London sucks.
 
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