Westerville is expected to receive a visit from representatives of the Intelligent Community Forum in April as a part of consideration for the Intelligent Community of the Year award.

The Intelligent Community Forum is a global network of cities and regions with a think tank at its center, according to its website, intelligentcommunity.org.

Its mission is to help communities use information and communications technology to create inclusive prosperity, tackle social and governance challenges and enrich their quality of life.

Co-founder Robert Bell said the organization was founded in 1999 as technological change started to impact communities.

Westerville is one of seven communities worldwide that are in consideration for the award, including Abbotsford in British Columbia, Canada; Chicago; Hudson, Ohio; Taoyuan, Taiwan; Sarnia-Lambton County in Ontario, Canada; and Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, according to Christa Dickey, Westerville's director of community affairs.

Dickey said Westerville first won the organization's Smart21 ranking and then advanced to the Top7.

Westerville also is the first city in the U.S. to achieve both the Smart21 status and Top7 on first application, Dickey said.

"At the Top7 stage, you're looking at a very significant achievement," Bell said.

To eventually become the Intelligent Community of Year, Bell said each community fills out a questionnaire, which is then evaluated by a group of independent researchers and leads to being ranked as a Smart21 community.

He said once that ranking is achieved, those communities fill out another questionnaire that is more detailed and it is evaluated by the same group of researchers.

After that, members of the ICF visit each community to validate the information on the questionnaire and to see how all programs and projects in the communities work together, Bell said.

"We're not looking for the biggest; we're not looking for the richest," he said.

Chief executives will visit Westerville on April 24 and 25. The final announcement of the Intelligent Community of the Year will be made in New York City in June.

The goal of the program is to provide communities large and small, urban and rural, with evidence-based guidance on becoming an Intelligent Community, and an objective method for measuring their progress, according to the organization's website.

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