Being smart city an intelligent choice

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Forget about the Intelligent Community Forum for a minute.

Ignore the fact that, earlier this week, it named Stratford as one of the smartest cities on the planet for the third year in a row.

But set that aside.

The ICF’s annual rankings may be the most glamorous and high-profile aspect of its work, but it’s only a small part.

The New York-based think-tank simply uses the awards program as a way of drawing attention to those communities around the world that use broadband or high-speed Internet connectivity to improve the lives of their residents.

It wants to highlight best practices. It wants to share what works. It wants the communities on its Top 7 list to lead by example.

And Stratford is doing just that.

Information and communication technologies like fibre-optic and Wi-Fi networks are making a difference here.

Of course, local businesses and industries are using them to stay connected and remain competitive in the so-called global broadband economy, but that’s only the tip of the digital iceberg.

Those same wires and radio waves are attracting new businesses and industries, as well as multinational corporations who see Stratford as an ideal testing ground for cutting-edge technologies that ride on that digital infrastructure.

It doesn’t stop at commerce, though.

Stratford General Hospital uses high-speed data networks to relay vital healthcare information quickly and securely, and local doctors are going online to access and update patient records wherever they are, using Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones, laptops and tablet computers.

Arts organizations like the Stratford Festival are exploring new technologies to reach out and engage their patrons.

The Avon Maitland District School board uses high-speed connectivity as a foundation for its e-learning centre, AMDEC, a virtual high school where students can obtain a secondary school education entirely online.

A local technology group called Avonova has launched a new pilot program that will put laptops into the hands of low-income families to open up those broadband benefits to more people in the community.

And at the digital epicentre of the city is the University of Waterloo Stratford campus, where technology, art and business intersect.

Innovation is everywhere.

That’s why the ICF named Stratford to its Top 7 list again.

That’s what makes this city so smart.

Mike Beitz