New York City-based think tank Intelligent Community Forum last Friday named the Gangnam District in Seoul, Korea, as the 2008 Intelligent Community of the Year as part of its annual conference held last week at Brooklyn Polytechnic University.
Equivalent to a New York or London borough, Gangnam is one of 25 self-governing districts in the Korean capital. ICF officials cited the extraordinary level of e-government and citizen participation via the Internet and television in the life of the community as the basis for this year's award.
Gangnam is part of the affluent metropolitan area south of the Han River, which bisects Seoul, a city that is home to the fifth highest level of Fortune 500 global companies. The district contains 2.5 percent of Seoul's population but produces 25 percent of its gross domestic product. Gangnam started systematic e-government initiatives in 1995, the same year in which only 1 percent of South Koreans used the Internet.
By 2006, because of a concerted national policy of broadband development working with private wireline and wireless carriers, 28 percent percent of South Korea's population were subscribers to broadband networks that reached 14 million people, a penetration rate fourth highest globally. Koreans access some of the fastest speeds in the world, with 100 Mbps available for a base rate of about US$37 per month.
ICF says the Gangnam district "led the nation in using broadband to make government more transparent, increase citizen participation, and even to help citizens who remained outside the local broadband economy." From a total population of about half a million, "about 350,000 citizens are registered users of the district's Web portal, and 210,000 are subscribers to an e-mail system that asks for their comment on proposed laws and regulations. In 2006, it launched TV GOV, a set of interactive e-government applications running over the familiar medium of the television set."
The New York think tank also cited these impressive statistics in making its award: Gangnam in 2006 collected US$280 million in taxes online, 15 percent of the total, and issued 2 million documents to citizens through the Internet or public kiosks. The system has made possible a 25 percent reduction in the local government's employment since 1995, and Gangnam estimates that it has saved citizens time worth $30 million.
US Communities among finalists meeting Intelligent Community criteria
In 2008 three United States communities or regions -- Northeast Ohio, Westchester, NY, and Winston-Salem, NC, were among the Intelligent Community finalists. New York City was the last United States winner, in 2001.
Criteria for the Intelligent Community award are: creation of jobs in fields expected to prosper in the Broadband Economy; attracting new businesses; educational programs for skills to perform knowledge work; new technology infrastructure investment, whether of "hard" assets, services or software; innovation in the delivery of government services; innovation by local business that creates new products and services and leads to increased competitiveness; ensuring access to broadband and IT resources, as well as skills training, for low-income and at-risk populations
Previous Intelligent Community Award recipients are:
The 2009 Intelligent Community of the Year competition opens with nominations this summer in July 2008 and a final deadline in early October. Seven finalists will be announced at the Pacific Telecommunications Council's January 2009 conference in Honolulu. Entry information is available here.
Visionary of the Year: OneCommunity's Scot Rourke
ICF also cited Cleveland's Scot Rourke as Visionary of the Year for his leadership of OneCommunity, under which the Ohio region's carriers donated unused fiber-optic circuits to OneCommunity and OneCommunity contracted for last-mile fiber and VPN services from the carriers. The result was an "ultra-broadband" network connecting the major government, institutional and nonprofit users in the region.
Additional ICF Founders Awards went to the X-Road Middleware Platform, (Tallin, Estonia); Gangnam Academic Aptitude Broadcasting, (Seoul, South Korea); and Dundee, Scotland, City Council.
Gillette is professor of information and communication sciences at Ball State University and a researcher at its Digital Policy Institute. He has written extensively on information technologies and policy, and worked in academic, industry and public policy organizations.