The ICF is a think tank and research organization with the aim “to help communities use information and communications technology (ICT) to create inclusive prosperity, tackle social and governance challenges and enrich their quality of life”. In other words, how are cities using ICT in innovative ways to make life better for their citizens. Hundreds of cities have competed in the ICF competition to be named Intelligent Community of the Year and past winners include Toronto, Montreal and Waterloo.
In 2016, Hamilton made the ICF’s Smart21 finalist list. And this year, Hamilton made the Top7 list, prompting the visit from judge and ICF co-founder Robert Bell. Robert notably commented on the collaborative spirit of Hamilton. A jury will soon decide this year’s top winner.
Winning this competition would be great for Hamilton. City boosters (elected or otherwise) would be able to use it as a key marketing piece that Hamilton has shaken its old image and is now going in a new positive direction. It’s something we’ve all been saying ourselves for years now, but it’s different when it’s coming from external experts. So the really cool thing is it would be more than the usual ra-ra marketing puff, it would be truly good external validation from experts that look at cities around the world.
For a non-trivial amount of companies looking to expand operations, this external validation is key. We’re increasingly viewed as being part of the Toronto-Waterloo corridor. Strong external recognition that we have more to offer than a cost advantage would be excellent.
All that said, participating in a process like this has its own reward. It forces cities to take a good assessment of where they are at, especially in relation to other cities. It exposes gaps and areas that need work (cough, broadband infrastructure), while making note of strengths.
Hopefully Hamilton wins, but if we don’t, it’s a great indicator that Hamilton ranked this high already, and the process itself has had value.