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Intelligent Communities Global Blog Series, The Future of Our Smart Communities: Services

One of the great challenges every municipality faces is how to deliver higher quality services to its citizens and businesses while their budgets consistently seem to shrink. Several of Canada’s leading communities are taking a pro-active role and are experimenting with shared services (an outsourcing or regional consolidation model); and almost all of them are looking at the Internet to be a low-cost channel for services delivery. Both these and other strategies are all the right steps towards a smarter and connected reality. Municipal leaders, however, recognized that one can’t quite eliminate the much needed face to face interactions with its constituents while delivering high-touch services–both from a quality and a security perspective.

Surely, the transformation of governmental services can’t be a burden that should solely rest on the shoulders of the municipality, although it is understood that they are the closest connected to the real needs and concerns of citizens and businesses in Canada. But what about the Federal services for which I have to go to Service Canada (I truthfully sat in their waiting room this week for 90 minutes so I could submit paperwork for a passport renewal)? Or Provincial services for which I need to go to Service Ontario? Passports, driver licenses, health cards, marriage certificates…does anyone still know for what to go where? Add to this Canada Post with its 6,500 services outlets. Or the municipal library systems (where there is more than books). And community centers all around the country for outreach and engagement.

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Intelligent Communities Global Blog Series, Taichung Sets the Stage (Perspective from Louis Zacharilla, Co-Founder of the Intelligent Communities Forum)

The Taiwan city of Taichung was in the spotlight twice this year.  Not bad for a place few had heard of in most parts of the Western world -- at least until the Academy Awards broadcast in February.  During that event, Asian-born director Ang Lee, after being named the recipient of four Oscars for his film Life of Pi, thanked Taichung in his acceptance speech for its technical prowess.  Those bragging rights were celebrated.  Four months later the city had something else to claim.  In June, the city’s Secretary-General (the equivalent of City Manager in the United States), Ms Ching-Chih Liao, stood on the stage at Steiner Film Studios in New York to accept the Intelligent Community of the Year award on behalf of Taichung’s 2.7 million citizens and its charismatic mayor, Jason Hu. An international jury and a research company had ranked this city higher (by a few hundredths of a point) than the six other communities that had been invited to New York for their impressive achievement as innovative, job-creating places which used technology to enable growth.

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Madame Liao noted the hard work that her community has done to balance its rural and urban economies, and the role that both broadband and the cloud play to support an infrastructure upon which innovation and technology companies thrive and add value in a place once known as “The Mechanical Kingdom.”

To understand why Taichung went so far in the awards program, it is important to understand that it first grasped the basic importance of the layer of physical infrastructure (telecommunications) and how it would next lead to its ability to exceed at ICF’s other five criteria, including innovation and a knowledge workforce poised to grow its middle-class.

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Intelligent Communities Global Blog Series, How to Be the Most Intelligent Community in the World?

One of the questions I was asked about the awards given by the Intelligent Community Forum is what does it take to become an intelligent community.  I’ll try to summarize what I’ve learned from participating in the ICF as a keynoter, juror and (before Cisco) a leader of a Top 7 community.

Among the few hundred communities that apply in this contest, it is clear the first step is make sure the community has sufficient broadband.  Almost all of the things that intelligent communities can do for and with their residents depend upon that connectivity in one way or the other.

Second, high-speed connectivity is not enough to stand out in this global competition.  The next question is what a community does with the technology.  Is it transforming:

  • The way that residents interact with their government?
  • How residents — from pre-kindergarteners to seniors — are educated?
  • How well the physical aspects of the community are managed?
  • How residents are kept healthy and safe?
  • The local economy and the income opportunities for residents?

… Just to name some of the evidence that ICF is looking for.

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Intelligent Communities Forum Co-Founder Louis Zacharilla preparing to announce the 2013 winner. Read More »

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Cloud for Local Government Global Blog Series, From “Techno” Tears to Confidence (Perspective from Louis Zacharilla, Co-Founder of the Intelligent Communities Forum)

Not long ago this joke was buzzing around the Internet:

Question:  Why was the computer late to work?

Answer: Because it had a hard drive.

David Letterman does not have to look over his shoulder but the corny little joke is loaded with possibilities for a discussion about the power of the Cloud and communities.

As the Top7 Intelligent Communities of 2013 make their way toward New York this week for the annual dialogue among 250 invited global thought leaders (including Cisco’s Dr. Norman Jacknis, who will give this year’s “Revolutionary Community” keynote talk), the ingredients for the secret sauce used to re-energize communities for the 21st Century will be revealed by its “chefs. “ I am guessing that one of the revealed secrets will be that the idea of being late for work has become passé.  Connectivity, when invested in properly, unleashes a new knowledge workforce and revives communities that have been looking for ways for their local economies to flourish.  Certainly broadband connectivity and more affordable access to the cloud remain big drivers for community revival and at least part of the secret toward solving many problems, including commuting and productivity.

So is vision.  Attendees will also hear from people like BlackBerry co-founder Mike Lazaridis , who will discuss why he believes quantum computing will be the next silicon for his community, Waterloo, Canada, the 2007 Intelligent Community of the Year.  He has invested CAN$250 million in a fund to begin to make it so.  He has the right environment.  Waterloo, a city of only 120,000 people, produced 10% of all the publicly-traded companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2007.  This was not an accident.  It shares traits with Intelligent Communities everywhere.

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