City network agreement is connecting Toronto to the digital world

Toronto has signed onto the Digital City Network in a collaborative agreement with San Francisco, with the goal of stimulating innovation of new technology within the ICT sector, according to City of Toronto spokesperson Rob Berry.

Toronto is hopeful that joining the network will also lead to further collaboration within the IT and new media sectors around the globe, says Berry. The Digital City Network has already connected cities as far away as Paris and Dublin.

The agreement was inked Wednesday via videoconference between San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Toronto Mayor David Miller, hosted by Autodesk Inc. in Toronto.

According to Autodesk Canada general manager Al Steel, Autodesk has research and development centres in both cities and uses high speed networks extensively within its business.

“The Digital sister cities are really pulling together an infrastructure of collaboration and technology. High-speed broadband networks allow our customers to take advantage of collaboration,” says Steel.

In response to the catalyst for having Toronto join the Digital City Network, its leader Joaquin Alvarado of San Francisco State University (SFSU) says there’s been a lot of buzz in Canada around ICT development.

“We share values and priorities with our Canadian collaborators, so we thought we should integrate our shared efforts to grow this industry,” says Alvarado.

Alvarado, who is also director of the Institute of Next Generation Internet at SFSU, says the Digital City Network will invite government and related industry user groups and hubs to share information with the goal of building faster, more robust networks.

“Ryerson University (in Toronto) is creating a 10Gbps connection into the Rogers Centre, and San Francisco State University will have a 10Gbps connection into our research and development lab,” he says. “There will also be physical sites where you will actually be able to go and do some of this next-generation work.”

He adds there’ll be a layer of administrative tools and specific programs will be scheduled that involve people on both sides.

“We have an infrastructure that we refer to as Digital Pathways, which will focus on community development in those industries,” says Alvarado.

“We’re hoping to build a cohort of young people who we’ll be working with on the Toronto side and a group of young people in San Francisco who will be in partnership with them.”

Alvarado says Toronto was chosen to join Digital Cities because of its strong new media and IT industries.

“The presence of new media in Toronto is probably stronger than any other city in the world,” he says. “Toronto has places like Ryerson and the Canadian Film Centre, which provide great human capital in terms of creating new applications.

“It”s about getting the media off traditional formats and not just creating new outlets, but creating new media types. There is going to be tremendous growth in that – My Space and YouTube are just the beginning.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Toronto Mayor David Miller. “Developing partnerships with our international counterparts through initiatives such as the Digital City Network are a positive step towards increasing global connectivity and collaboration.”

Key points from the Digital City Network agreement:

– Building awareness of digital media sectors and enhancing their reputations as leading creative centres.
– Growing the digital media industry by encouraging greater integration and investment in digital media companies located in Digital City Network cities and regions.
– Establishing a global network infrastructure between the Digital City Network cities to enhance next-generation connectivity.
– Establishing local collaboration centres as a focal point for Digital City Network city activities and access to the international network.
– Developing joint educational programs and exchange opportunities between Digital City Network cities to prepare students for the global future.

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