Sorry, silicon valley, you're not the the only high-tech game in town.
Lurking in the shadows are global hot spots of innovation, urban centres that rarely get the press enjoyed by San Jose, Beijing or London.
These emerging engines of science and technology may not be well-known among the geekerati, but their rising potential signals an important fact: the least likely cities are welcoming technology as they never have before.
Look at Tallinn, Estonia, population 400,000. In a country desperately trying to shake off its Soviet past, leaders are modernizing the capital's technological backbone: Internet penetration rate is estimated at 58 per cent of residents; wireless service in Tallinn is spread across the city and mostly free; drivers pay parking tickets using text messaging; and Internet-phone company Skype was born in the Baltic nation.
It's a bad pun, but some observers are calling this Web-savvy country E-stonia.
What sets Estonia apart from other nations? It structures itself as a community open to innovation and cultural self-expression, says Richard Florida.
As author of The Rise Of The Creative Class (a seminal book on great cities) and professor of business and creativity at U of T's Rotman School of Management, Florida knows a thing or two about how cities can enrich their appeal.
"Flexibility is key," Florida says from his Toronto office. "Creative energy is everywhere, but a smart city will allow that energy to bubble up to the surface."
He adds that although Estonia is a small country, its focus on tech for all allows its citizens to connect to everyone in the world with its impressive Wi-Fi rollout.
Companies in nearby Finland (site of Nokia headquarters) are even entertaining the idea of setting up shop in certain areas of the underdog tech powerhouse.
Another global player is a metropolis hoping to be oil-free by 2010. If that idea sounds wonderfully ambitious (albeit naive), then air-mail your kudos to Stockholm, Sweden. The nation is home to wireless superstar Ericsson, as well as 2,500 flourishing green-sector companies and more eco-friendly projects than Adria Vasil's Ecoholic.
Case in point is Stockholm's Hammarby Sjostad district 4,000 apartments fitted with quadruple-glazed windows, ovens that run on biogas from wastewater and central heating that's connected to solar cells.
Stockholm's green rep got a boost when global real estate company Cushman & Wakefield dubbed it the world's least polluted major city.
Then there's sleeper hit Fort Collins, Colorado. A college town with Colorado State University as its nucleus, Fort Collins is generating patents at four times the U.S. city average.
The city accounted for 20 per cent of Colorado's 8,140 patents between 2001 and 2005, according to the United States Patent Office.
Add a $30 million bacterial diseases research facility and commitments to outfit several sectors with clean energy and the result is a Colorado city with more going for it than just mountain views.
Urban guru Florida isn't surprised by Fort Collins's position on the R&D map.
"These small towns with great universities can have a huge impact," he says. "If you look at the community's innovation system, it starts by becoming a talent magnet and a tolerance machine."
Florida's "tolerance machine" concept posits that cities encouraging economic prosperity are more likely to embrace multiculturalism and queer cultures.
"Success won't happen overnight. It took Silicon Valley 50 years to become what it is today. "
The mayor of Fort Collins is also open to the idea of, well, openness. "Great cities have to be inclusionary and offer cultural recreational opportunities, " says Doug Hutchinson.
The Fort Collins mayor also speaks excitedly about political cooperation leading to hard-hitting innovation. Its Clean Energy Cluster project combines 40 energy organizations and companies and state and municipal funding.
"That's an example of how the government can be a catalyst for real innovation," Hutchinson says.
So how can a city like Toronto raise its high-tech profile? A fixture of local academia, Florida is optimistic Canadian universities can spark a high-tech revolution.
"We have to make our universities world-class, but since we're already on par with Stanford and MIT, I'm hopeful."
As a side note, Florida points to another sign of booming times. "When a new musical wave storms a city, that usually means that area has a strong innovative climate," he says. "It might not mean technological advancement exactly, but those places are the hotbeds of economic awakening."
Final Fantasy, Feist, Kevin Drew, Toronto's start-ups should thank you, even if they don't know why.