How intelligent are Alberta communities ???

(Honolulu, Hawaii & New York, New York, January 20, 2010) – The Intelligent Community Forum named its 2010 Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year. They include: Arlington County, VA, USA, Dublin, Ohio, USA, Dundee, Scotland, UK, Eindhoven, Netherlands, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Suwon, South Korea, Tallinn, Estonia.

“The Top Seven of 2010 have demonstrated ingenuity through innovative broadband applications and dedication to education,” said ICF Co-founder Louis Zacharilla.

“Each of these communities was affected by the recession, yet they pushed forward with their commitment to broadband, innovation and a knowledge-based economy through investments in research and development facilities, the creation and aggressive support of small business and “clusters” of industries that continued to produce new jobs.”

This is a good list to be on. These communities are successfully investing in a diversified, prosperous future. Alberta ranks among the wealthiest regions on the planet; with GDP per capita of $81,000 (Stats Canada/ Nov. 2009), second in the world to Qatar at $87,717 (IMF/2009) yet consistently ranks near the bottom of many of these kind of surveys.

According to a recent Harvard study on broadband, as of July, 2009, Alberta would rank 25th compared with 30 other countries studied in terms of pricing, 20th in terms of online speeds and 16th in terms of broadband penetration.

Overall, the leaders are Japan, Sweden, Denmark and South Korea. In its rankings, Canada placed 22nd overall, behind New Zealand, Spain and Austria.

“the report says North American-style deregulation, which allows incumbent phone and cable companies to keep monopolies on some service, hasn’t resulted in increased competition.”

The result is that of the 13 providers that charged the highest rates for the lowest online speeds, 11 came from the U.S. and Canada. (http://www.itworldcanada.com/news/harvard-study-calls-canadas-broadband-effort-weak/138998)

In terms of the other attributes of the Intelligent Communities ranking,  “commitment to broadband, innovation and a knowledge-based economy through investments in research and development facilities.” Alberta has extremely fragmented, modest activity at best.

It’s difficult to determine exactly why one of the wealthiest regions in the world should be doing so poorly on such important initiatives? Reliance on energy commodities, urban/rural political split, lack of awareness and lack of leadership focus are likely all contributing factors. Ultimately, the reasons are less important than the results.

Alberta communities should be ranking high on these kinds of surveys. As the quote John F. Kennedy made famous goes “for to those whom much is given, much is required.” Alberta has no excuse not to be creating intelligent communities and for the sake of our own future quality of life we need to be.

On the upside; it was terrific to see a great Canadian city on the list.  I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with a number of tremendous “intelligent community” entrepreneurs from Ottawa including Andrea Baptiste, David Cork, Alec Saunders (who had a terrific post on being an entrepreneur today) and the larger than life Sir Terry Matthews. Congratulations to our friends in Ottawa!

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