We might not have jet packs, flying cars and food in a pill yet, but we do have the internet, HDTV and the iPod — solid technologies that make 21st-century living pretty cool. So where is the future coming from? Amazingly, it’s being created by a select group of cities that have strong research and development in technology and a population that embraces it. From North America to the Far North to Asia, and a few countries in between, we’ve compiled a list of tech cities from around the world where technology is tops.
Here are our picks for the top 10 tech cities you must visit if you’ve got a hankering for some extensive Wi-Fi coverage.
Tel Aviv, Israel
There’s a good chance that the one in four Israelis working in a high-tech fields are positioned in Tel Aviv, on of the world’s top tech cities. Considered the cultural capital of Israel, Tel Aviv has a young population and a 24-hour scene. These are two big ingredients why the city has so much venture capital and start-ups are so well-funded. Microsoft likes Tel Aviv so much that it’s opening a new R&D center in the city. With a population that spends more time online per capita than any other country, it appears the city is in a good spot to experience even more growth in the future.
Almost 65% of Germany’s population uses broadband — the largest percentage in Europe. And Munich is considered the country’s high-tech center. But in 2003, the city of Munich suggested something that spurred Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to get on a plane to Munich. What? The city wanted to migrate their 14,000 computers from Microsoft to Linux, and Steve’s pleas didn’t change a thing; they flipped in 2006, making Munich one of the top tech cities in the world. Other bold elements of the city’s tech culture include airport wireless connections that let you use your own ISP and in-flight broadband services for long-haul flights from Munich.
Thirty-five percent of India’s IT talent works in Bangalore and generates a massive chunk of India’s overall GDP. Bangalore has a countless number of top engineering schools that feed the IT economy, which have attracted elite companies like Microsoft, HP, 3M, and Infosys to set up offices here. As one of the top tech cities, Bangalore has been dubbed the “Silicon Valley of India.” The city’s culture reflects that with Wi-Fi coverage for much of the city. Biotech is the other show in town with just under half of all Indian biotech companies in Bangalore.
Finns traditionally like quiet and aren’t big on small talk, yet they stormed the world with a cell phone brand. Nokia may not make much sense, but it does make a lot of money. Ironically, it’s a big topic of conversation for Finns in and out of the high-tech industry. In fact, Helsinki has more cell phones per capita than Japan or America, and Finland claims that 70% of its population uses the internet. Also with the Helsinki University of Technology readying thousands of students for its high-tech market, Helsinki is considered the second fastest growing urban area in Europe. For a quiet place, it makes a big racket as one of the top tech cities around.
Seattle is widely known for two things: tech companies and coffee shops. Bill Gates set up Microsoft here with offices throughout the city and its suburbs, but he’s not alone. Amazon.com and T-Mobile are two other big companies in Seattle’s white pages. In all, the popularity of tech companies in Seattle was so big in the ‘90s that close to 50,000 people moved in. So, residents should have no trouble at all finding a wireless network, especially when they’re enjoying a cup of coffee in a Starbucks or Seattle’s Best Coffee — both of which started here and exist on every street corner. It’s a handy relationship for techies who get to stay wired all day and night in one of the coolest tech cities in North America.
San Francisco Bay Area, California
The southern San Francisco Bay Area, which includes San Jose, is the gold standard of American tech cities. Known as Silicon Valley, the area got its name in the ‘70s because of a number of computer companies developing silicon microchips there. Since then, all the big names in tech have moved into the San Francisco Bay Area: Intel, Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard, Google, and of course, Apple. The area’s residents get to reap the rewards, like access to a “connected bus” service with free Wi-Fi and touch-screen maps. It looks like Rice-A-Roni isn’t the only treat in this town.
Hong Kong, China
You can place an order with a robot waiter in Hong Kong. This is just one example of this tech city’s gadget-crazy life, which also includes extensive cell phone coverage and the fastest residential broadband in the world. In a bid to encourage more high-tech business, Hong Kong opened a high-tech area called Cyberport with apartments and shops all covered by Wi-Fi. Creative and special effects companies have moved in, which is a big industry in Hong Kong. School kids are also early technology adopters, some getting their fingerprints scanned into a primary school database every morning for attendance. All of this adds up to make Hong Kong a world-class tech destination.
Singapore, a city state of just under four million people, is a tech utopia. Wireless broadband is available to everyone free of charge. The government also promises
to increase wired broadband speeds to 1gig a second by 2012. This year, mobile money will be made legal tender so residents can pay for items from their phones, handheld computers and wristwatches. Plus RFID (radio frequency identification) tags are mandatory on every car, charging people different prices based on what time they use certain roads. It comes as no surprise that multinational companies like HP, Fuji, IBM, and Microsoft have set up a presence in this techie fantasy island.
Seoul, South Korea
Samsung and LG Group are based in Seoul, and are the backbones of the country’s strong mobile phone industry. This explains why the phones of most Seoul residents are 10 times faster than yours. The other big business here is online gaming. Over half of South Korea’s produced games are shipped to China. And just under half of Koreans are hardcore gamers who meet regularly in internet cafes to play online. It’s so popular that a Seoul university offers an online gaming course. Seoul is also considered one of the most connected tech cities; people have wireless access on public transportation, even underground in the subway.
Tokyo is the ultimate canvas of high-tech living. You can find everything here: techie gadgets, next-generation cell phones, a high-speed public transportation system, advanced electronics, smaller microchips, and the highlight — digital toilets. While some of the big tech companies in Tokyo include Sony, Nikon and Panasonic, the city is a marketplace for every Japanese product from Nintendo to Epson. In Tokyo, the majority of residents have ketai (mobile phones) glued to their hands. They use them for texting, e-mailing, talking, and shopping. When they’re not on them, they’re using broadband with speeds several times faster than anything in North America.