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By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

Lou Zacharilla, co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, has a foolproof way of identifying which cities are most likely to be successful deploying broadband networks: business cards.

The ones who do well at broadband, he says, are the ones whose municipal employees collaborate across departmental boundaries, and with elected officials.

“If I go into a city to give a presentation, it’s usually in a large conference room. I can always tell who’s already collaborating, because they’re not exchanging business cards. They already know each other.”

In January, the ICF identified the top seven municipalities in the world (determined by a team of academic experts) for broadband deployment:


The winners represent a wide range of geographies, but they all have one thing in common, according to Zacharilla: “The elected officials and employees work together toward a common purpose, which is building an intelligent community. They understand that the stakes for the future – building an economical infrastructure for these cities to persist.”

Committed to Deploying Broadband with Creativity

Other characteristics of several of the cities on the list, according to Zacharilla: they were creative or committed, or both. Tallinn, for instance, which has appeared on the ICF’s list in previous years, was particularly hard-hit by the recent economic downturn. But they continued to invest in infrastructure, expanding doubling funds for educational institutions and their underlying network, he says. It also invested in business clusters focusing on specific industries – health, mechatronics – which now hold 250 companies “that weren’t there a couple of years ago.”

On the creative side, Zacharilla cites Stratford, Ontario. “It’s been doing creative work for a long time. It’s a small city that has to punch above its weight.” It’s worked to apply digitization to everything it does, from its annual Shakespeare festival to luring companies focusing on technological and digital content. Mayor Dan Mathieson has also made the offer to global companies to use the city as a beta-test site for technology. “He’s made the city a laboratory, and companies like Toshiba are experimenting with smart lighting. He has a why-not attitude, and the city as a whole has a lot of energy.”

Getting Better at Broadband

What should other cities do to get better at broadband? In response, Zacharilla quotes the Roman philosopher Virgil: “They can because they think they can. Try. It’s that simple.”

He suggests completing the ICF nomination form. “It’s a good self-test, to see how you do.” He also suggests getting together with other CIOs who are tackling the same issues to hear their stories.

“At the annual ICF conference, you hear a lot of stories, and that helps convince communities that they can tackle broadband,” says Zacharilla. There needs to be a belief system, an attitude, he insists, “and technology can’t help with that.”

The ICF Summit, an international gathering of mayors, chief administrative officers, chief information officers and economic development officers from cities, states and regions around the world, will take place in New York City June 5-7, 2013.

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  1. The Good Force be with you!

    It is a good thing that I use Cisco modem and a Click broadband to communicate with you. Common Traits of Intelligent Community Superstars are they are wise, just & lead many to righteousness.

    Live forever & prosper!


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