June 11, 2012, 9:06 PM — NEW YORK -- Riverside, Calif., using a municipal broadband network to overcome the digital divide and mobilize various sectors of the community, won the coveted 2012 Intelligent Community award last week.
This marks the first time in more than a decade that a U.S. community has won the award, handed out by the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), an independent think tank focusing on broadband-economy development.
Riverside was chosen from among seven finalists, and almost 400 applicant communities. An agricultural region once known primarily for its citrus groves, the Southern California city has built a free Wi-Fi network that provides 1Mbps access at 1,600 locations throughout the city of 300,000 population.
Riverside succeeds Eindhoven, Netherlands, which won last year on the strength of its renaissance industrial policy. [See: "Broadband bling goes to Dutch region"]
Like Eindhoven, the city of Riverside, whose development motto is "Seizing our Destiny," developed its network against a backdrop of decay and policy stasis. As with all of the more than 100 cities participating in the worldwide Intelligent Communities movement, the Riverside enterprise is characterized by intense collaboration of all sectors in the city -- private, government, and civic. Especially critical is the participation of its local educational anchor, the University of California, Riverside.
Mayor Ron Loveridge, who this year finishes 32 years elected service to the community, accepted for the city's delegation. He responded to the award declaring, "It honors Riverside's excellence in so many of the key markers of success in the 21st century, including: high technology, workforce development, digital inclusion, arts, innovation, collaboration and social capital. We have been tested and assessed as world leaders and we are delighted to work with the ICF on spreading innovation throughout the global community."
The Intelligent Community Forum also honored Sen. Stephen Conroy, Australia's Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, as ICF's Visionary of the Year. Conroy is the governing Labor Party's official responsible for the National Broadband Network (NBN), the largest infrastructure project in Australian history.
Conroy said Australia's 2011 National Digital Strategy aims to make the country the top broadband economy by the year 2020. "Universal, affordable, reliable broadband is the key utility of the 21st century," Senator Conroy said.