Will an American city defend the title of the world’s top Intelligent Community of the Year in 2013?

Three U.S. cities: Columbus, Ohio; Mitchell, S.D.; and Philadelphia were nominated by the Intelligent Community Forum’s (ICF) for next year’s Smart21 list — the top 21 cities worldwide demonstrating best practices in a 21st-century community.

This year, Riverside, Calif., was nominated as Intelligent Community of the Year for its efforts performed through its SmartRiverside program. The official announcement of the Smart 21 cities was made Sunday, Oct. 21, in Riverside.

Selection for the top 21 is based off of nominations submitted from around the world with research conducted by ICF, a think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st-century community.

Of the 21 nominees for 2013, 13 cities have made the Smart21 list before, but for the first time since the program began in 2004, communities from Albania and New Zealand have made the list.

So how did Columbus, Mitchell and Philadelphia make the grade?

Louis Zacharilla, cofounder of ICF, said each of the three American cities was nominated over several dozen other American cities during the selection process because each city reflected innovation in the workplace – the overall theme for next year’s program.

“We’re going to be looking at how communities are at least attempting to do what is really important, which is to make sure that technology is not being used to disintermediate employment or to end employment, which it’s very good at doing, and it should do in the private sector, but to actually create opportunities and to create jobs,” Zacharilla said.

He said Mitchell overcame challenges such as a severe population drop (about 30 percent) over a couple of decades, but through a combination of a digital literacy program, building fiber to the home and utilizing technology to improve farming practices — also known as precision farming, the city has managed to transform its local economy.

Philadelphia, a city much different from Mitchell in terms of its culture, dealt with significant economic challenges, particularly since the Great Recession. Zacharilla said the city has begun to move forward with programs that focus on digital literacy and has informed its educational infrastructure to ensure preparedness for the future economy.

For Columbus, turning to its neighboring community Dublin, Ohio, for ideas on best practices is what may have helped it make the Smart21 list, (Dublin made the ICF’s top seven list in 2011). Utilizing universities, broadband infrastructure and the Ohio Super Computer Network, the city has been able to prepare itself for a 21st-century economy.

ICF will later narrow down the list of nominees to a top seven list of intelligent communities and in 2013, the organization will select its top winner.

The full list of nominees :

1.    Ballarat, South Australia, Australia

2.    Castelo de Vide, Portalegre District, Portugal

3.    Columbus, Ohio

4.    Heraklion, Crete, Greece

5.    Hsinchu City, Taiwan

6.    Jiading New City, China

7.    Kingston, Ontario, Canada

8.    Mitchell, S.D.

9.    Oulu, North Ostrobothnia, Finland

10.    Philadelphia

11.    Prospect, South Australia, Australia

12.    Rio de Janeiro

13.    Stratford, Ontario, Canada

14.    Taichung City, Taiwan

15.    Tallinn, Estonia

16.    Taoyuan County, Taiwan

17.    Tirana, Albania

18.    Toronto

19.    Wanganui, New Zealand

20.    Whittlesea, Victoria, Australia

21.    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.