Three U.S. Surprises Among the Top Seven Global "Smart City" Leaders

February 3, 2015



Each year the Intelligent Community Forum, (ICF,) ranks the worlds "smartest" cities.  As defined by the ICF, intelligent communities are, “cities and regions that use technology not just to save money or make things work better, but also to create high-quality employment, increase citizen participation and become great places to live and work.” The nominees for the Intelligent Community of the Year are recognized for their technological strategies, particularly their use of cutting edge information technology to attract businesses, stimulate job creation, and improve overall economic growth.


The seven finalists for the 2015 award were announced recently and the cities listed may come as a bit of a surprise.  Three of the seven cities are in the United States, and they are not the big cities you may expect, for instance New York, Chicago, or even San Francisco. Other large cities worldwide like London and Tokyo were also unrecognized, with mainly mid-sized cities being named.


The "smart city" finalists from the U.S. are as follows:


Arlington County, VA 

Previously benefiting from its close proximity to Washington D.C., in addition to being home to the Pentagon and all of its research facilities and resources, Arlington County is now focusing on its citizens taking control of their technological future.  Separating themselves from their federal ties, more than forty citizen advisory groups have been created for the people to make decisions affecting their areas growth.


Columbus, OH

Columbus has been a city of two extremes.  On one hand, it is home to the highest concentration of Fortune 1000 companies in America.  On the other hand, a large low-income population was prevalent due to the decreased availability of low-skill factory jobs.  To combat these issues, Columbus put energy into city development and business mentoring programs in combination with capital attraction.  With the installment of these programs, employment growth in skilled manufacturing exceeding 35% over the past ten years.  Additionally, Columbus is now considered one of the best places in the United States for college graduates.


Mitchell, South Dakota

Mitchell has undergone an extreme re-branding in recent years, going from a rural, agricultural-based economy to a regional center for new technology.  This transformation is largely thanks to the Mitchell Technical Institute's $40 million investment for a technology based campus.  The state of the art campus has drawn some of the brightest minds in the technological fields, spurring numerous start up companies in addition to investors in the area.



Not only is it exciting to read about how these cities have made advances in their communities and the lives of their citizens through technological innovation, but it is inspiring to hear how these changes were started by people within the communities.  It is not massive city networks with large amounts of funding available making this list of worldwide stand out cities.  Rather, citizens from mid-sized cities using grassroots efforts to make changes within their communities.



For more information on the ICF Intelligent Community Of the Year Awards Program, including the remaining four international finalists, read this article from Federico Guerrini, contributor for

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