Riverside, which has appeared among the Top Seven Intelligent Communities for two years in a row, succeeded Eindhoven, Netherlands, the 2011 recipient.
ICF Co-founder Louis Zacharilla congratulated the new Intelligent Community of the Year, saying,
You are an example of yet another community many left for dead, but which has fought all the way back, using its collective will power and intelligence to prove, once again, that there is a great revival taking place among the world’s cities, towns and regions.
Profile of the Riverside, California, USA
At the end of the last century, Riverside was a bedroom community and university town, agricultural center and warehouse hub in the desert 60 miles from Los Angeles. It also had a large population of poor and poorly educated residents and was unable to retain many of the 55,000 graduates leaving its many institutions of higher learning.
In 2004, the mayor and a community college dean convened a High Tech Taskforce to figure out how to channel some of California’s high-tech growth into their community. It gave birth to the Riverside Technology CEO Forum and SmartRiverside, which together led a multi-sector effort to change the city’s destiny.
The city built a fiber network to connect its operations as well as the University Research Park. A free WiFi network now offers up to 1 Mbps service through 1,600 access points, and exploding demand has led multiple commercial carriers to deploy high-speed broadband across the city. Riding the network is an array of award-winning e-government applications, from dynamic traffic management to graffiti tracking and removal.
Riverside has also worked to leverage its universities in multiple ways. College 311, a Web-based hub for educational social and community services, aims to double the number of Riverside youth who complete college. Targeting five knowledge-intensive industries, Riverside and its partners have launched innovation efforts from a highly-acclaimed virtual secondary school to an Innovation Center offering incubation space, business acceleration and interaction with angel and venture investors. These efforts attracted 35 high-tech companies and established 20 tech start-ups.
In 2006, Riverside started a digital inclusion program, using its free WiFi network, to provide technology training, free computers and software to all of the city’s low-income families. Making it happen is Project Bridge, which provides recycled IT equipment to 1,500 new families each year. The equipment is refurbished by reformed gang members, who learn valuable skills; Project Bridge is southern California’s largest recycler of e-waste, and the project is funded by eBay sale of excess equipment. From the streets to the research lab, Riverside is ready for the digital age.