Digital inclusion is one of five key measures that the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) uses for assessing “intelligent” communities. The other measures are broadband connectivity, knowledge workforce, innovation and marketing / advocacy. Robert Bell, an ICF co-founder from New York, outlined what it takes to be an intelligent community at a public talk in Wanganui today. Wanganui is the only New Zealand city to be recognised amongst the top 21 ICF cities in the world, a position they gained in 2013 and retained in 2014.
Robert drew on examples from Australia, the USA and the UK where cities large and small have transformed themselves for the digital age and created economic growth while also solving social problems and preserving a high quality of life. Many of these examples are included in his new book “Brain Gain: How innovative cities create job growth in an age of disruption.”
He noted the three critical success factors for digital inclusion are access, skills and purpose. People must have affordable access to digital technologies; they must have the confidence and skills to use the technologies and they must care enough to want to use them. Robert repeatedly stressed the opportunity that the internet provides for communities to collaborate no matter where they are located. Historically, geographic clustering of similar businesses and industries has been viewed as the pathway to innovation and economic prosperity. However, Robert claims that the drive for innovation now comes from collaborative global partnerships, linked through the internet.
The 2020 Trust partnered with local UFB and RBI infrastructure providers and the Wanganui District Council in supporting the public talk and a digital city master class, being facilitated by Robert Bell during his visit. The Trust has collaborated with Wanganui District Council over a number of years in delivering its Computers in Homes and Stepping UP digital literacy programmes to Wanganui communities.