Welcome to the world's most intelligent small city.

Whanganui has come out top in the Intelligent Community Forum's "Small Places, Big Ambitions" list of the top communities with populations under 50,000.

It means we're doing things smarter.The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) is an international think tank which helps communities adapt to a digital economy.

Each year it selects the 21 cities from its membership which best demonstrate the forum's mission. Whanganui has been named in the top 21 every year since 2013 and in 2016 was placed in the top seven.

Advertisement

This is the first time is has topped the rankings and means we're doing things smarter.

The ICF "By the Numbers" series, which covers communities with populations ranging from less than 50,000 to more than a million, is a guide to the relative strengths of communities in the ICF network. It incorporates results from the Smart21, Top7 and Intelligent Community of the Year evaluations.

The "Small Places, Big Ambitions" list was rounded out by one Australian, four Canadian and four American communities.

Marianne Archibald is the director of Archibald & Co and helps communities around New Zealand develop their digital strategies.

Now also the chief executive of the Whanganui Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Archibald has been involved in the Intelligent Community Forum since Whanganui's first entry into it.

"It's fantastic to see Whanganui ranked in first place for communities with a population of 50,000 or less," Archibald said.

"We did a huge amount of work to get to Top7 status by 2016 and were working alongside communities with much bigger populations."

Whanganui achieved Top7 Intelligent Community status through projects such as ensuring fibre was built early in Whanganui, getting many of the more remote areas of Whanganui connected to fixed wireless, working with Inspire Net to get free wifi around the city connected through the CCTV network, organising a separate network to be built in Whanganui for the internet of things (IoT), setting up a Computer Clubhouse, having one of the best Computers in Homes programmes in New Zealand, running GovHack, hosting three technology expos and getting The Mind Lab to run postgraduate courses for teachers on digital and collaborative learning.

Archibald says much more work needs to be done as technology keeps moving forward.
"I'm excited about the future for Whanganui and New Zealand," Archibald said.

"Whanganui might not continue to measure itself against a global benchmark like the Intelligent Community Forum - that's the [Whanganui District] council's decision to make - but we should definitely still be working to understand how technology could disrupt our businesses and how we prepare for that, how we design our education to provide the best opportunities for young and old alike, how we create the conditions that foster innovation in the region and how we make sure that a whole section of our community isn't disadvantaged through being unable to afford to connect.

"One of the best aspects of the ICF application process was that we had to talk to each sector and find out what they were doing. This meant we connected with education, business and government, including looking across council departments where some really cool technology was being implemented. It's called the triple helix model and it's really hard to do but the rewards on a community level are massive."

Archibald's experience and passion for the sector is taking her to the national and international stage.

In June she attended the Intelligent Community Forum Summit in London where she was a member of a panel that discussed big data.

"As Whanganui, and New Zealand, isn't yet doing much work with big data, I talked about our connection using small data; that is, understanding individual customers' needs and using that information in areas like niche manufacturing," Archibald said.

"It was great to be able to tell the audience that the London Ambulance Service officers are wearing safety helmets made here. Like Sir Paul Callaghan said, New Zealand can't compete on the huge mass-produced front - our talent is in the weird (niche) stuff."

In October Archibald will be a panel member at the Blockworks conference in Auckland.
The panel will look at the connection between blockchain technology and smart cities and the opportunities that could come from this new technology.

Blockchain's attraction is its security because each block in a blockchain is a digital, tamper-proof record of information. It is built using cryptography, a way of storing and transmitting data so it can only be read and processed by the recipient, meaning it is effective in managing information such as identity, finance, social and medical records, transport and supply chain details.

"It's incredibly exciting and always a privilege to represent our region on the national and global stage," Archibald said.