EcDev Journal

20 years after it began the world’s Intelligent Community movement heads to Toronto

Posted on Wednesday October 08, 2014
Public Sector Digest is hosting a Webinar that features ICF as the Institutional Partner and John Jung will be the participant. It will take place Oct. 23 at 3pm Eastern. 
Lessons from the intelligent Community of the Year: Applying the Toronto model to your city 
Link to the registration page and details of the Webinar

By John G. Jung


According to the book called Networked Communities, written by Sylvie Albert, Don M. Flournoy and Rolland LeBrasseur, “the first true intelligent communities event, which linked the emerging telecommunications revolution and the fledgling Internet to economic development, was held in Toronto, Canada, in 1995. This event, called SMART95, for the first time, saw the telecommunications industry and the world of urban planners, political policy makers and economic development officials gathered under one roof to examine the impact of telecommunications on communities and economies.”


That was 20 years ago. With all the interest today in “Smart Cities” and “Intelligent Communities”, that event was really quite historic  – it focused on Smart People, Smart Buildings and for the very first time, Smart Cities and regions.


Over 1200 international government, private sector and institutional delegates attended the event including several hundred Asian visitors. This event was more than just a conference – it was also a gathering of experiments and global firsts. For instance, Professor Paul Hoffert, leader of the famous Canadian band, Lighthouse, known for its songs One Fine Morning and Sunny Days and at that time he was Director of Cultech, organized an unusual broadband test. His experimental concert included performing with other musicians connected in other cities in Ontario, demonstrating how collaborative music could be performed over long distances through both satellite and fiber optics. That experiment was one of the highlights of the public events at SMART95, demonstrating the power of technologies and connectivity at that time and the role that culture can play in bringing these together.


With the Japanese delegation witnessing the Lighthouse experiment, it was reprised at the 1998 Nagoya Winter Olympics when the great Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa conducted musicians around the globe on five different continents, performing Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Japan, Australia, China, Germany, South Africa, and the United States – all linked by satellite to open the Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The power of culture proved that the technology was now available to embrace new ideas as never before. It was a proud moment for Toronto, for Canada, and for what was to become the Intelligent Community movement.


Just a few years later, the Intelligent Community Forum was formed with its global headquarters in New York City. For many years it promoted what today the world refers to as “Smart Cities” – the development of high-speed broadband in cities around the world and ways to create the most efficient, productive and prosperous communities possible based on evidence-based data and metrics. For two decades ICF advocated the development of infrastructure as an essential utility to ensure that communities could properly be part of the emerging broadband-based economic, social and cultural changes happening worldwide and at times the Intelligent Community Forum seemed to be the main champion and voice for the movement. Today, many new organizations are advocating the creation of “smart cities” – from vendor-led voices to country-wide associations and new commercial conferences. Smart Cities focus on making cities work better. The Intelligent Community Forum promotes the creation of Intelligent Communities, which focuses on making cities better places for people to live in.


Today the Intelligent Community Forum advocates a much broader and extensive set of criteria and promotes consideration of knowledge centric opportunities, including working closely with K-12 and post-secondary institutions as well as improved workforce training on the shop floor; it advocates the importance of innovation and creativity in the global economy and in city and community-building; it promotes the importance of making the digital world available to everyone and to all ages and abilities; it encourages cities and regions to understand the importance of good governance in building confidence in the marketplace to attract investors, talent and risk capital; it promotes to governments, institutions and the private sector to become advocates in creating an innovation ecosystem that is built on trust and confidence; as well as to build on other indicators such as sustainability, leadership, collaboration, marketing and venture capital attraction.


During the past 20 years Toronto, like the rest of the world, experienced tremendous changes in terms of technology, social changes and physical changes to its waterfront where SMART95 took place. The organization called Waterfront Toronto, charged with overseeing the re-development of a huge part of the waterfront, has actively embraced the Intelligent Community movement. Over the past decade, Waterfront Toronto’s Intelligent Community focus achieved a great deal using Intelligent Community-based activity. So much so that it led the process to claim the 2014 Intelligent Community of the Year award.


Toronto also takes the lead this year as home to the first ever country affiliate, ICF Canada. With a Canadian Board of Directors It will promote Intelligent Communities in Canada from a perspective that is based on the Intelligent Community Forum's well-established criteria. Engagement and sustainable participation is important for the future of the Intelligent Community Forum as it continues to grow new communities around the world. ICF Canada will be the model for other nations. 


The anniversary of SMART95 and Toronto’s waterfront will enable the Toronto region to once again provide new directions and experiments for the next generation of Intelligent Communities. It will celebrate Toronto’s success as a model Intelligent Community for the world and so it is only fitting that the 2015 Intelligent Community Summit should be held in Toronto. June 9-11.


This year’s theme is called the “Revolutionary Community “ with-a focus on urban and regional planning and how it relates to the planning and development of successful Intelligent Communities. Intelligent Communities recognize that today’s disruptions in technology, the economy and the environment will only grow more intense.  The planners, economic developers, municipal leaders and decision-makers in Intelligent Communities understand the impact that the continuing broadband revolution will have on their physical form, the delivery of services and competitive economic advantages.  So they approach the planning of land-use and infrastructure, sustainability and community development in revolutionary ways.


 A white paper on this is topic, The Revolutionary Community: How Intelligent Communities are Reinventing Urban and Rural Planning, is available at The events, summit proceedings and the 2015 awards program in Toronto will also be posted.  See you there in 2015!



John G. Jung is the Chairman and Co-Founder of the Intelligent Community Forum and one of the co-authors of Brain Gain. He is director of ICF Canada. Jung is also an award winning registered urban designer, urban planner and economic developer working in Waterloo, Canada.