Whanganui needs to first tell its story to itself and then to the world and that was what a large part of being a Top7 Intelligent Community was about.

Whanganui received the title this year from the Intelligent Communities Forum, an international non-profit organisation which looks at, among other things, how communities can transition to and prosper in the digital age. Co-founder John Jung has been in Whanganui this week and on Tuesday night was with economist Shamubeel Eaqub at the War Memorial Centre, where the city's story and collaboration with outside organisations and businesses were prominent themes.

Mr Eaqub said Whanganui's fibre network might give it a competitive edge for a while, as long as people were using the infrastructure.

"The take-up rate is still very low and this is why I was asking the questions about community engagement and digital inclusion because I think that's where a lot of the traction is going to take place. if we can't get businesses coming here to take advantage of it then what's the use."


Mr Eaqub said being part of the ICF provided a kind of blueprint for the future but also seemed to be about Whanganui telling its own story to itself.

"I think it is mostly about ourselves," he said. "I think of what this does is it's a self-critique but it's also a celebration of the things you're doing right, which is kind of nice. If you're not convinced, no one else is going to believe you."

That word also had to be spread to attract new businesses and help expand existing ones.

"But it's hard, right, it's a small place and we have to try and look further out to be able to do that. I don't know how easy it is to do that."

He said it could be as simple as talking to outside businesses. "Engagement is really important and you've got some superstar businesses here. How to do you use that leverage to help bring other businesses here? There is every reason why (Whanganui) can be a sustainable city. But it has to fight for it."

This year's council elections would provide another chance to debate a way forward for Whanganui but Mr Eaqub said that had to be at a higher level. "It's like everybody talks about how they're going to create growth. How? Tell me what your plan is?"

Whanganui mayor Annette Main agreed much of the ICF work was about Whanganui telling its story to itself.

"We're not talking enough about the things we are doing and what individuals are doing."

However she said Whanganui's fibre network was the last piece of the puzzle and now was the time for collaboration with other communities.

Meanwhile, Whanganui will be judged against six others communities before the ICF names its top intelligent community for 2016.

"I think it's a major achievement to get to the top seven," Ms Main said. "Realistically, I think we have a way to go."