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in the northeast corner of the United States, we are enjoying a
beautiful start to autumn, with bright warm days and cool nights. It's
too bad the sun is setting earlier each evening, but otherwise it is my
favorite time of the year.
ICF is also deep into another of my favorite seasons. I call it the Season of Bright Ideas. We just closed nominations for our Intelligent Community Awards
Now I and my fellow founders are reading nomination forms. A lot of
nomination forms. We are looking for the 21 most powerful models of
economic and social progress based on information and communications
technology. We will announce the Smart21 Communities of the Year
on October 16. We do it at a reception hosted on behalf of Stockholm
the current Intelligent Community of the Year, by the Swedish Consulate
in New York. For those unable to attend - and that is most of our
friends and colleagues around the world - we will be streaming it from
our Web site.
call it the Season of Bright Ideas because the pages (and pages and
pages) of these nomination forms contain so many great ones. Here's
just a small sample:
One nomination comes from a city that is
already a successful high-tech manufacturing center. They are taking
the Great Recession of 2009 as an opportunity to raise their game.
That game is all about talent: fostering it, attracting it and keeping
it. One program produces a wide range of activities for kids age 4 to
20, which all aim to interest them in technology careers. How? By
having fun interacting with high-tech games and contests - and they
have statistics showing that the program boosts the percentage of
university students choosing technology majors. The community's latest
innovation is a Web site that gives foreigners information and services
making it easier to relocate into the region. They know that their
future also depends on being a place that attracts and retains talent
from around the globe.
Several communities are putting
their fiber and wireless broadband networks to use providing remote
healthcare. One community equips the elderly and chronically ill with
devices at home for monitoring their vital signs, and advanced mobile
phones that let healthcare workers find and connect with them wherever
they are. In another community, the network connects clinics in
remote, low-income areas with the city hospital. One successful
program offers remote ultrasound examinations of pregnant women. It
has reduced the waiting time for an obstetrical exam from 4 months to
34 days, and women are now four times less likely to miss a scheduled
appointment, because the appointment takes place close to home.
Intervening like this at the earliest stage of life can make a powerful
difference in the decades to come.
The broadband in both of
these communities, by the way, is free. They were unable to persuade
the incumbent to invest, so the cities built their own networks. Those
networks saved the governments a lot of money they had been spending
with the incumbent - so they decided to open the networks up to the
public, as basic infrastructure. And here we thought that business
always moves fast, and governments always move slowly.
this year's award cycle, our theme is "The Education Last Mile: Closing
the Gap Between School and Work." One community has taken this idea
remarkably far. University students in the community receive an
Employment Services Card. It records their participation in programs
offered in partnership by schools and government: career guidance,
quality evaluation and job internships. It also qualifies them for
entrepreneurship training and business subsidies and subsidized loans
for start-ups. The training isn't just theoretical: 1,000 local
business people personally train 3,000 university students each year.
Local universities and colleges also have active campus recruiting
networks with online matching of employers and students. And if that
weren't enough, the government pays 60% of minimum wage for up to 12
months to subsidize the hiring of young people by local companies.
of these bright ideas is a local solution to a local problem. Each is
shaped by the community's unique history, politics and culture. Some
of these ideas you may not want to try at home. But some of them may
be the inspiration for your own unique local solution to a local
problem. That's the reason we founded the Intelligent Community Forum:
so that Season of Bright Ideas can be celebrated in communities all
around the world.