Intelligent CommunitiesIntelligent communities? An odd term perhaps, but one which is becoming increasingly relevant, particularly in this digitally-driven age. An intelligent community is one which is taking active steps to embrace the challenge of the broadband economy. One which is technically geared to using fast-evolving communications technologies to the benefit of local businesses, individuals and the environment. One which gains an edge in its global interactions, no matter how geographically remote it may be. One which continually innovates.

There’s a two year research project underway which aims to rank communities by their “intelligence”. The metrics used don’t just rest on the sophistication of a city’s technological infrastructure, and how it deploys that IT infrastructure to manage and administrate (for example) health-care, education and local services and to facilitate business activity. They also look at information flow and sharing within a community: how many people have open access to systems, how many use those systems on a day-to-day basis, and how many have the mobile devices and hardware that enable them to do so.

Does a community have a thriving higher educational facility (indicative of a culture of learning)? Does it have the physical facilities (conference and meeting centres) where large numbers of professionals and the public can converge to exchange information and ideas? And critically, does it have a declared determination and ambition to secure global recognition for its status? Answer yes to all these, add in the technology, and it’s undoubtedly a smart city.

It’s a challenging set of metrics. But many cities are rising to the challenge in an exemplary fashion. Initial research has focused on the world’s major conurbations. The global leader is Seoul, followed by (in descending order) London, New York, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Amongst the top ten you’ll also find Stockholm and Shanghai. Next up for the researchers: tier 2 cities. Which is when it becomes particularly fascinating: because (as they say) size doesn’t matter. Smaller communities, making adroit use of technology, with tighter budgets, may well find themselves scoring as highly as mega-cities.

Did anyone ever imagine that Slough might find itself sitting alongside Seoul in some global ranking? Watch this space is all we can say.

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