Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/4/2016 (2018 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg has been selected as one of the top seven intelligent communities as part of an international competition for the second time in three years.
In keeping with the self-deprecating character of Winnipeggers, many people have scoffed at the notion the city should be included in that conversation.
Most people, regardless of where they’re from, would justifiably think places such as Silicon Valley, Boston or Tokyo would rank above this Prairie town when it comes to any kind of ranking of intelligent cities.
But listening to Robert Bell, a co-founder of the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum that organizes the competition, it may very well be one of the more significant indicators of the things that are working in this city.
For starters, the "competition" includes more than 300 cities around the world, so to rank in the top seven is clearly an accomplishment.
The goal of the Intelligent Community Forum is not about picking the most prosperous place, the largest congregation of technology companies or the even the place with the smartest technology workers.
At a public address sponsored by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, Bell said the competition is "a cleverly disguised research project."
"We want to understand why intelligent communities build better businesses and stronger economies," he said. "And we want cities to be able to learn from each other. We don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel."
By selecting the best examples of what cities around the world are doing, the forum is trying to understand how cities use information and communication technology as a foundation for prosperity, solving social problems and creating a rich culture that keeps citizens engaged.
The forum started about 15 years ago. The word "broadband" may not have been invented yet, but its presence as an agent of change was already being felt.
The Intelligent Community Forum is interested in the presence of a broadband network, the presence of knowledge workers who can adapt to that technology and the innovations those workers are able to produce.
And unlike many other business-oriented rankings, the forum also cares about digital equity and the ability of a community to make sure folks don’t get left behind. It also cares about advocacy and environmental sustainability.
So the idea is to find cities that use technology to make the community a better place, not necessarily more tech-focused.
"We are trying to score and, more importantly, understand, how cities get there," Bell said. "We are interested in how you got from where you were and where you are hopefully going. And we are interested in cities that do it in a conscious way."
One of the things about Winnipeg that has caught the eye and the score sheet of the forum is the collaborative activities that take place here.
It is as if people have been talking about collaboration in Winnipeg for so long, it’s finally taken for granted.
Among the examples included in the city’s submission is the Composites Innovation Centre, which is managed by Economic Development Winnipeg. It is a fully functioning collaboration that includes core funding from the provincial and federal governments, strategic and engaged participation from the private sector — including some of the biggest names in local and international business, such as Boeing and Motor Coach Industries — and a growing element of training and graduate and post-graduate academic associations.
Another collaboration that makes Winnipeg look intelligent is New Flyer Industries’ development of an all-electric bus as part of a project that includes the provincial government, Manitoba Hydro, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Red River College and Winnipeg Transit.
The ICF is holding its annual summit in June in Columbus, Ohio, last year’s most intelligent community, an indication Winnipeg has every right to be in the conversation.
As is often the case with individuals, so it is with communities at large — we need others to tell us we’re doing a good job.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.