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Intelligent Community Forum Names Recipients of its Annual Founders Awards
Apr 20, 2010 (07:04 PM EDT)


2010 Honorees include Educational initiatives of China's Tianjin Binhai New Area; America's Pew Internet & American Life Project; and Besancon's 'Digital Schoolbag' initiative in France

Summit at NYU-Poly, awards at Steiner Film Studios in New York on May 21

NEW YORK, April 20 /PRNewswire/ -- The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), a New York-based think tank that studies the impact of broadband and related information and communications technologies on the communities of the 21st Century, named the three recipients of its annual Founders Awards today.  This year's recipients reflect the forum's annual theme, "The Education's Last Mile: Closing the Gap from School to the Workforce."  Each honoree was cited for using technology to implement a forward-looking agenda that is transforming the educational system to meet the needs of the "knowledge workforce" or to allow a better understanding of the role of technology in everyday life.  This year's recipients are: the educational programs in Tianjin Binhai New Area, China; the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project; and the Digital Schoolbag of Besancon, France.

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The awards will be presented during the Intelligent Community of the Year awards ceremony held at Steiner Film Studios in Brooklyn, New York at 1:00 PM (ET) on 21 May at the conclusion of ICF's annual Building the Broadband Economy Summit (www.icfsummit.com), which takes place 19-21 May, 2010.  The invitation-only Summit is organized by ICF and hosted by the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly).

Honorees are selected each year by ICF's co-founders as part of the annual Intelligent Community Awards.  The Founders Awards offer global recognition to individuals, applications, organizations and innovations within intelligent communities that represent inspiring models of good practice or contribute to better understanding of the Broadband Economy.

"At NYU-Poly, we have a strong and growing interest in intelligent communities," said Mel Horwitch, NYU-Poly Department of Technology management professor. "We view this arena in the broadest possible way.  We have hosted and collaborated with ICF for more than six years, and we are conducting research and teaching courses aimed at helping cities become more livable and engaging. We know this means integrating new technology, a committed citizenry, innovators, and sustainability. ICF's Founders Awards manifest the same kind of eclectic thinking. These awards go beyond technology: They honor richly multifaceted and committed individuals and institutions. In fact, these awards are just one more reason why we are so pleased to be such close partners of ICF."

More about the 2010 ICF Founders Awards

Digital Schoolbag, Besancon, France

A university town and regional capital, the City of Besancon grew wealthy from the manufacture of clocks and watches, metallurgy, textiles and food-processing -- until global competition for timepieces in the 1970s sent the economy into severe decline.  The community fought back by leveraging its universities and grands ecoles, where 24,000 students are enrolled, and finding new outlets for the skills of its citizens in precision manufacturing.  Today, Besancon is the base for 8,900 vibrant businesses and three global competitiveness clusters: the microtechnology competitiveness cluster; the biomedical and biotechnological engineering cluster; and the nanotechnologies, automation, microrobotics and microplasturgy cluster.  In 1994, it became the first French city with a fiber network connecting all government and quasi-government facilities. 

In 2003, Besancon also became the first city providing computer equipment to all children of the same age class and their families.  Within the "Digital Schoolbag" project, all 3rd grade students receive a multimedia computer package.  Given to the pupils free of charge, the package comprises a computer with Pentium processor, the same educational software that is used at school (dictionaries, atlas, etc), and the option to subscribe to Internet access.  The Schoolbag also includes workshops for the parents in order to enable them to participate in their children's learning at school.

In 2001 the Ministry of National Education introduced a new Information and Internet Certificate.  This required that pupils be tested in computer and Internet skills at the end of elementary and middle school.  The results of the evaluation have shown that the pupils in Besancon beginning their first year of secondary school have a much higher success level than the national average.

"What impressed me about Besancon, one of the year's Smart21 communities, was the way it uses technology to further social ideals and fuses it to shape its economic forces," said Louis Zacharilla, ICF's co-founder.  "With the 'Digital Schoolbag' project, Besancon sent the message to all its children that technology is a key to future jobs and an important element of future social contribution."  Zacharilla added that by directing similar programs at parents, the community attempts to cross an emerging "demographic divide."

Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project

The Pew Internet Project conducts original research that explores the impact of the Internet on children, families, communities, the workplace, schools, health care, and civic/political life.  The Project was initially conceived by the staff and officers of the Pew Charitable Trusts and is one of seven key projects of the Pew Research Center in Washington, DC.  Pew observed in the late 1990s that many of the debates regarding the impact of the Internet lacked reliable data.  In 1999 the foundation hired Lee Rainie to secure an initial three-year grant.  Rainie was named the project's Director and has spearheaded the enormously influential series of research projects ever since. 

The Project conducted its first survey about the general role of the Internet and email on the average person's life in March 2000 (one year before ICF's landmark white paper studying the global impact on communities).  The animating spirit of that report and subsequent research was to provide data and insights of relevance to policy makers, journalists, scholars, technology leaders, non-profit executives, and engaged citizens in communities in the United States.  It became clear after the Project's early reports that other groups were considered stakeholders, including the medical community, parent- and child-advocates, librarians, and new media workers, including an emerging generation of media workers within government agencies. 

Over the past decade, ICF noted that the Internet & American Life project has covered topics as diverse as Internet viruses, music downloading, online privacy, cell phone usage, and wireless connectivity.  More recent subjects include cloud computing and the future of the Internet.  The Project has also followed new online activities as they reach a critical threshold of adoption.  ICF noted the impact of Pew's studies on broadband usage in the United States and how broadband influences behavior.

"The Pew Center is a 'fact tank' and gathers reliable information on topics that ICF has deemed critical to our understanding of how people use technology to shape the Broadband Economy," said John Jung, ICF co-founder and Chairman.  "Lee Rainie and his team have been an absolutely instrumental part of the research that has come from Pew and the dialogue that it has enabled within our own community of communities.  I am also pleased to say that Lee has been a good friend of the intelligent community movement since 2004."

Tianjin Binhai New Area, China

For the past three decades, the Chinese economy has grown at an average of over 9% and expectations are that China will soon emerge as the world's second largest economy.  As its national economy continues to accelerate, mandating that it continue to create enormous economic output, China faces an unprecedented demand for talent in the areas of science, technology and innovation.  This enormous pressure is felt most keenly in Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA).  TBNA is a new logistics hub and manufacturing center that is the coastal gateway to Beijing.  TBNA, with a population of over 2 million, was named one of ICF's Smart21 Communities for 2010.  This new urban center relies heavily on an information technology "overlay" to produce economic output that is based increasingly on knowledge industries.  At present, nearly 30% of all of China's scientific and technological talent is within this new community, according to data submitted to ICF.

TBNA has established programs such as the Employment Services Card, Work Youth Experience and Training Database to not only connect students directly to the workplace on collaborative projects, but also keep citizens briefed on opportunities in the workforce.  Further, Tianjin Binhai University Technology Transfer Center has deeply integrated students at TBNA's universities and colleges into the local economy.  This has led to numerous university-industry projects to improve enormous industry clusters, including grape cultivation, winemaking and refrigeration, wastewater treatment (in papermaking), and eco-tourism. 

"The educational models and projects that integrate the educational network with the industrial workforce are not intern models, but contribute to the growth of the economy in the present, while opening students' eyes to local career opportunities," said ICF's co-founder Robert Bell

"TBNA is being honored because the community is attempting to retain as many of the talented young people it educates as possible," Bell added.  "Some of TBNA's programs are unique to China and the world and worth studying; others are similar to programs being implemented elsewhere.  It is a very innovative and practical mix."

ICF said it honors TBNA for assembling what may be the world's most comprehensive effort to involve students in the local economy and provide a systematic 'on ramp' to local employment.

More information about current and past recipients of the ICF's Founders and other awards are available on the website.

About ICF

The Intelligent Community Forum (www.intelligentcommunity.org) is a New York-based think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community and attempts to help shape the community for the future.  Whether in industrial or developing nations, communities are challenged to create prosperity, stability and cultural meaning in a world where jobs, investment and progress increasingly depend on broadband communications and access technologies.  The Intelligent Community Forum shares best practices and offers research and insights into the success of the world's Intelligent Communities.  ICF develops criteria, conducts research, hosts events, publishes reports and newsletters and produces an international awards program.  In May 2010 ICF will announce the establishment of the Intelligent Communities Association, a non-profit trade association and working group for the world's nearly 90 intelligent communities.  ICF has partnered with the Polytechnic Institute of New York University since 2005.  The Intelligent Community Forum was founded by Robert A. Bell, John G. Jung and Louis A. Zacharilla, authors of Broadband Economies (2008).

SOURCE Intelligent Community Forum