Wanganui in semi-finals of intelligent communities contest

Wanganui makes it to the next round of a contest to choose the 2013 intelligent community of the year

Wanganui has been chosen as one of the world’s top 21 “intelligent communities” in a list drawn up annually by the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum. It is the first New Zealand city to be so recognised.

The list of 21 comprises the semi-final stage of a contest to choose the 2013 intelligent community of the year.

“Intelligent Communities are those which have – whether through crisis or foresight – come to understand the enormous challenges of the broadband economy and have taken conscious steps to create an economy capable of prospering in it,” says the Forum on its website. “They are not necessarily big cities or famous technology hubs. They are located in developing nations as well as industrialised ones, suburbs as well as cities, the hinterland as well as the coast.”

Wanganui is now readying a “refined bid”, involving submission of more detailed particulars of its broadband-orientated advances, so as to pitch for a place in the final – a list of seven from which the intelligent community of the year will be chosen, says Marianne Archibald, digital facilitator at Wanganui District Council.

It’s hard to know exactly what swung the Forum’s decision to include Wanganui in the final 21, Archibald says, but the city emphasised in its bid its negotiation of a place in the first phase of the Ultrafast Broadband development, three-day TechEx exhibition earlier this year, where local organisations show off their technology-oriented work, and various “digital inclusion” initiatives such as Computers in Homes, a “cyberwhare” and provision of iPads to Year 7 and 8 pupils at St George’s school.

The city is beginning to construct a public wi-fi network as a partnership between the council and ISP Inspire.Net

The TechEx exhibition was also a public-private partnership venture, with local newspaper the Wanganui Chronicle as the private partner. The Intelligent Community Forum seems particularly keen on such partnerships, Archibald says.

The much more detailed application for a place in the final seven is being readied now and is exposing gaps in Wanganui’s and perhaps the nation’s knowledge of its technical resources, Archibald says. “They’ve asked, for example, for the share each telco has of the Wanganui market,” she says. “I can’t find that information anywhere and we may have to pay to have the analysis done.”

Even if Wanganui doesn’t make it into the final seven, she says, the process of making the application will be helpful in identifying and filling in such gaps in knowledge.

The application for a place in the final is due to be sent off in mid-December “and we expect to hear in January next year,” Archibald says.

The competition entry takes the form of a written application for the first two rounds, but if Wanganui makes it into the final seven, the Forum will send a visitor to examine local developments and quiz participants at first hand.

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