an intelligent community is a city or region that uses information and communication technologies to build prosperous economies, solve social problems and enrich their cultures
According to the organisers of the Intelligent Communities Awards, the world’s Intelligent Communities “…have a consistent track record of better job creation, attracting more investment and dealing with the shift to the internet based economy…”

The organisers are the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), a US-based international think tank.  The Forum studies and promotes the best information and communications technology practices that work towards solving social problems and enriching local cultures.

The ICF utilise their annual Intelligent Communities Awards to drive communities to build inclusive, prosperous economies on a foundation of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT).

So what is it that makes a community “intelligent”?

But first, an intelligent community is not to be confused with the “Smart City” concept which uses technology to help solve infrastructure problems like traffic congestion, parking control and electricity metering.

To use the ICF’s definition, an intelligent community is a city or region that uses information and communication technologies to build prosperous economies, solve social problems and enrich their cultures in the 21st Century.  By doing this, they create high-quality employment, increase citizen participation and make themselves great places to live, work, start a business and prosper across generations.

That is a grand economic development objective, one worthy of targeting by progressive urban and rural communities.

Only one New Zealand city has put it self forward for previous Intelligent Community awards.  That is Wanganui, an entrant in 2013 that will also enter this year’s awards.  I have previously written about Wanganui’s entry in the ICF awards and what that has meant for the city.

Marianne Archibald, the Digital Facilitator for Wanganui District Council, says that achieving Smart21 finalist status last year was a fantastic recognition of Wanganui’s digital inclusion work.  But more importantly she said, was the way it provided a focus on using technology to improve the prosperity of Wanganui’s residents.

This added benefit for their community comes from having to deal with the fundamental shift that is occurring from the old ‘analog’ economy to the new ‘digital’ economy.  Wanganui has been proactive in taking a community-centric and inclusive approach to local economic development that is now reaping rewards for local businesses.

The guiding principles for that approach are rooted in the context of their entry in the ICF Awards.

Dana McDaniel, the winner of the ICF’s 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award thanked the Forum at his acceptance speech, saying that the ICF awards context “…has now become the cornerstone of many economic development strategies.”

That context is based on the five success indicators identified by the ICF: Broadband connectivity; Knowledge workforce; Innovation; Digital Inclusion; and Marketing and Advocacy.

Along side these success indicators are three factors that define the success of intelligent communities: Collaboration, Leadership and Sustainability.

cultureIn addition to these indicators, the Awards are guided by an annual theme. The 2014 awards will focus on the power of culture to help or hinder the transformation of towns, cities and regions into Intelligent Communities.

The ICF see culture as being central to communities and something that cannot be overlooked as they strive to meet the economic challenges of a broadband-based economy.  They see culture as defining our identity and sense of belonging as well as creating intellectual property that can have substantial economic value.

Will any other districts choose to implement policies like Wanganui’s and grasp the challenge of using the ICF awards as a means to economic development by harnessing our unique culture?