Two U.S. jurisdictions -- Arlington County, Va. and Columbus, Ohio -- made the finals in the run-up to "Intelligent Community of the Year," an international competition designed to showcase those communities that use information technology to build prosperity and solve social problems while enriching local culture. Each year, the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) selects 21 communities, then narrows it to seven. Finally, in July, one community takes the top prize, but everyone benefits from shared best practices and innovation.

Consistently ranking high on livable community lists, Arlington County has a highly educated workforce and top-ranked education system, but according to an ICF release, the area also faces key challenges. The Defense Department moved 13,000 jobs out of the county, an expanded rail system puts the county in direct competition with communities further from Washington, D.C., and a mobile workforce made retention difficult.

Arlington County has countered these difficulties by rolling out its own fiber network, and developing innovative ways to promote collaboration among government, business and higher education. The county is also engaging citizens with online and mobile technology, including future use of a "Yellow Button" app that enables citizens to weigh in on community issues, a new round of master planning and an arts incubator.

Collaboration is also a priority of Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Michael Coleman. The region boasts The Columbus Partnership, a civic development group composed of CEOs of the city's largest organizations, while TechColumbus offers startup expertise and funding. And while the manufacturing portion of the economy has lost 30 percent of its workforce, the city's population of young college graduates actually increased between 2007 and 2009, and employment in education and healthcare increased 36 percent. In 2013, while the rest of the country suffered a 25 percent drop in employment, Columbus' workforce bucked the trend and grew by 20,000.

The other top jurisdictions are Hsinchu City, Taiwan; Kingston, Ontario, Canada; New Taipei City, Taiwan; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.