Founded in 1861 by Father Albert Lacome, the city of St. Albert is a striking blend of culture, history and community. St. Albert began as a small town around the Father Lacombe Chapel—which stills stands today on Mission Hill—in the Sturgeon River valley northwest of Edmonton and grew into the second-largest city in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. In addition to the Father Lacombe Chapel, the city is home to the St. Albert Grain Elevator Park, which houses two historic grain elevators. But for a city rich in historical sites, St. Albert is most defined by its community of residents constantly striving to improve life and embrace new innovation. St. Albert Place, located at the heart of the city, is a classic example of this attitude. It was designed by a world-renowned architect as a “people place” from the start and currently houses the St. Albert Public Library where residents can gather to learn about new technologies and opportunities in the modern world. This gathering of residents from local government positions, local businesses, academia and the general public has produced St. Albert’s Smart City Master Plan.
Access for All
A core component of St. Albert’s Smart City Master Plan is providing high-speed Internet access throughout the community. St. Albert has created its own municipal fiber optic network, which now connects half of the city’s municipal buildings, intersections and assets. The city plans to expand this coverage to all assets in the near future. St. Albert is also using this network to offer licensed wholesale access to community groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and local school districts, as well as to industry.
In addition to fiber, the city is expanding its cellular service infrastructure, including building new towers, new fiber backhaul, and new microcell installations to allow citizens to use their wireless cell service everywhere. St. Albert is working with service providers as part of this initiative to offer free Wi-Fi service in public places throughout the community with most free Wi-Fi locations now up and running.
Training the Workforce of the Future
St. Albert has developed several programs to help train its younger citizens for future careers and to assist young entrepreneurs in the more difficult phases of starting up. The city operates the Collective facility where local youth can access a series of Marketplace programs. The programs include skill-building workshops—such as Ready to Rent, a course that provides education and resources for finding and maintaining housing—counselling and outreach, entrepreneurship training with highly qualified mentors available and the Building Assets and Memories (BAM) program. The BAM program has attracted dozens of youth members who have organized retreats, a youth-issues conference, foreign missions and many popular community events. In addition to these programs, the Collective provides meeting spaces for youth to gather and exchange ideas and for entrepreneurs to get started on their companies.
Fostering an Innovation Ecosystem
To attract innovators to the city as well as provide an ideal environment for local entrepreneurs, St. Albert has partnered with residents and academic and industry leaders to establish itself as a “living lab.” Entrepreneurs and innovators can test their products, ideas, and commercialization plans in the city, making it an attractive place to build new businesses. Since becoming a living lab, St. Albert has seen resident entrepreneurs form an Innovation Council. Working together with the local chamber of commerce, business incubator and university, the Innovation Council launched the St. Albert Innovation Forum in 2017, an event open to the whole community where residents can share new ideas and debate policies for future competitiveness in the city. The Innovation Council has also created a Capital Partnership Program, a new platform to help innovators attract investors.
Digital Literacy at the Public Library
With Internet service rapidly approaching 100% availability in St. Albert, the city has turned to its library to train residents to use all the new technologies available to them. The St. Albert Public Library offers a wide array of digital literacy programs, including classes on using email, mobile devices, social media, Google apps and Microsoft Office products, as well as introductory programming, coding and game design courses. In addition to attending classes at the library, residents can also make use of the library’s Outreach Literacy Van, a mobile classroom staffed by a Community Outreach Librarian. The Literacy Van visits schools, clubs, churches and other community centers and provides a total of 60 different technology literacy programs with more being added each year. The library is currently planning a drop-in Makerspace program focusing on virtual reality, robotics and other emerging technologies to be launched sometime in 2018.
In addition to classes, the St. Albert Public Library has expanded its technological services, providing 45 public workstations with free Wi-Fi access for patrons. In 2017, these workstations saw more than 34,000 Internet work sessions. People have always been St. Albert’s greatest resource, and the city continues to nurture that resource, helping residents achieve their greatest potential and improve life for all.
Centered around a city of just 14,000, the Alexandria Lakes Area is a tourism hot spot known for its over forty lakes and many resorts. The region is home to a wide variety of cultural events that draw large numbers of tourists and locals each year, including Art in Park in July, the Douglas County Fair in August, the Carlos Creek Winery’s Grape Stomp in September and an Apple Fest in October. The city of Alexandria, heart of the Lakes Area, features a number of public schools, the Alexandria Technical & Community College and its own museum that houses the Kensington Runestone, a 200-pound greywacke stone covered in runes that was discovered in central Minnesota in 1898. Alexandria also hosts the annual Vikingland Band Festival parade marching championship. It is often too easy for a region focused on drawing outsiders in for tourism revenue to ignore those who live and work in the area year-round, but that is not the story of the Alexandria Lakes Area. The region has focused heavily over the past twenty years on connecting and improving the lives of the nearly 40,000 people who call its beautiful lakes and shores home.
Connecting the Unconnected
The Alexandria Lakes Area has developed multiple major connectivity projects since the early 2000s, all with the goal of bringing greater adoption and connectivity options to the region’s sprawling rural communities. The CMETS (Central Minnesota Education Telecommunication Systems) deployment was created to share IT solutions between the area’s eight rural school districts, including providing broadband Internet, voice, video and teleconference options. Rural telecommunications providers collaborated to engineer a 10 Gigabit private ethernet network to connect the eight school districts. These providers maintain the network and lease it to the CMETS consortium, which provides distance learning resources through the network, allowing students to access college-level courses taught within and outside their school districts.
Outside the school system, rural providers are in the process of deploying fiber-optic broadband throughout the Lakes Area. One of those local providers, the Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association, targets unserved and underserved residential areas, and has laid an average of fifty miles of fiber-optic cable per year. Gardonville’s infrastructure supports up to 10 Gigabit per second speeds for homes and businesses in the region. The company has also applied for and secured grants from Minnesota’s Border-to-Border organization to fund further fiber-optic deployment at greater rates.
Pitch Your Plan
To foster interest in local businesses and help new ones get off the ground, the Alexandria Lakes Area came up with the Pitch Your Plan business competition in 2018. The competition was made possible by collaboration among a large group of partners, including several investment, insurance and real estate companies, multiple consulting companies and the City of Alexandria and Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. Other local companies also contributed to the project alongside these partners to put together a $38,000 prize package, including goods, services and financial support for the competition’s winner. Pitch Your Plan attracted 33 business applicants with 10 semifinalists chosen to move on to a business plan bootcamp to fine-tune their plans. The competition featured a large number of semifinalist positions in order to provide the bootcamp’s training to many businesses other than the eventual winner in the hope that such training would help them succeed as well. This effort was successful as a few of those businesses that did not move on to the finals still established themselves and are growing today.
Pitch Your Plan opened its doors to the community at large once the competition narrowed down to 3 finalists with a luncheon at a local downtown theater, during which the 3 presented their final pitches to the judges. The winner was able to massively expand its fledgling business with the prize package and the other 2 finalists also went on to grow their businesses afterward, utilizing the lessons they had learned in the competition and the relationships they had built with their competitors and other local businesses. The Alexandria Lakes Area plans to host the next Pitch Your Plan competition in 2021.
Preparing the Next Generation for College and Beyond
Beginning in 2014, the Lakes Area established the Academies of Alexandria High School. The academies serve as mini-schools within the district’s public school, focusing on specific career training to help high school students better prepare for college and entering the workforce. All 9th graders in the academies go through the Freshman Exploration Academy. In the following years, students select 1 of 3 academies depending on their interests and career plans: the Engineering, Manufacturing Technologies and Natural Resources Academy, the Health Sciences and Human Services Academy or the Business, Communication and Entrepreneurship Academy. Each academy teaches core classes in math, English, social studies and science alongside more focused classes based on the academy’s career theme. The school district partners with local businesses and civic leaders to provide students with real-world examples and answer practical questions they may have about their career futures. These partnerships also provide access to internships and mentors within the community. Over 75% of seniors in the first graduating class from the Academies of Alexandria went on to college or career opportunities with more expected to benefit each year as the program is refined.
The City of Alexandria Comprehensive Plan Revision
Originally adopted in 1995, the City of Alexandria’s Comprehensive Plan has undergone multiple revisions and updates to better meet the needs of a growing and changing community. The Plan provides the citizens of Alexandria with an outline for future development, including chapters on land use, transportation, wastewater, water supply, storm water management, housing and parks and recreation. In 2018, the City released a Request for Proposals for planning services to start the process of updating its Plan, which had not been revised since 2007.
To make the Plan available and comprehensible to as many Alexandrians as possible, the City has made all of it available on its website, where it is fully searchable and downloadable. Citizens can access components and chapters of the Plan 24/7 via Dropbox and can provide ideas and public feedback via email and Social Pinpoint at any time. To reach even more members of the community, Alexandria’s local government set up “pop-up” booths at local events, including Art in the Park, Community Night Out and the Douglas County Fair to ask for input on changes to the plan and what areas of concern mattered most to local attendees. The City also set up one-on-one and small group interactions on the street in downtown Alexandria, as well as visioning and goals sessions at City Hall and a range of speaking engagements. These efforts bore fruit when the City received over 1,500 written and emailed comments, suggestions and concerns from event attendees. To address as many of these concerns as possible, the City allocated $52,400 for the Comprehensive Plan formal revision from the city’s annual budget for Plans and Studies. The public hearing process for the new Plan was completed in October 2019.
With the natural beauty of Alexandria’s lakes come the expected challenges of reaching remote citizens and providing opportunities for all. The Alexandria Lakes Area has met these challenges head-on and expects to grow into an ever more connected community as its programs reach fruition and beyond.
Photo by Omar David Sandoval Sida. Used under Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Durham Region has been recognized as one of the Smart21 Communities of the Year for 2021, which Durham Region’s Sandra Austin, director of strategic initiatives, says is a “positive step forward for Durham.”
The awards, presented by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), recognize the world’s leading municipalities that are successfully leveraging data and digital assets to develop inclusive and prosperous communities.Read more
NORTHEASTERN MINNESOTA — The Arrowhead Intelligent Region (AIR) initiative, a partnership between Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation and Blandin Foundation, is building on the momentum and bringing to regional scale the work and vision of 10 Iron Range Broadband Communities (IRBC) that have implemented nearly 125 projects in the past four years. IRBC broadband champions and regional developers are joining forces to think bigger about the role of broadband access and use in local economies.Read more
Coquitlam is up for a major international award as a “smart city.”
Last week, the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) named Coquitlam as one of 21 municipalities in the running for the title of 2021 Intelligence Community of the Year.
The field will be narrowed on June 24 when seven finalists are announced; the winner is named in October at an annual summit of digital analysts.Read more
Communities from eight nations, including Vietnam and the United Kingdom, named this year
(24 February 2021 – Township of Langley, City of Maple Ridge & New York City) – At the conclusion of a virtual conference hosted by the Township of Langley and the City of Maple Ridge in British Columbia, Canada, and in a simultaneous global announcement online from its New York City headquarters, the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) today named the world’s Smart21 Communities of 2021.
Selection of this group of regions, cities and towns begins the think tank’s annual nine-month process which will conclude when ICF names the 2021 Intelligent Community of the Year in October 2021 at the ICF Summit. Each has applied the six principles of the ICF Method to begin building inclusive economic prosperity, social health and cultural richness, which together make a community strong and resilient. Most have been working on their programs for several years.Read more
The City of Maple Ridge and the Township of Langley are teaming up to host the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) Smart21 Conference this month.
The virtual event, themed “From Surviving to Thriving,” will take place from Feb. 22-24. It will bring together delegates from the business, government and non-profit sectors who have implemented smart technologies in communities around the world, said a press release from the City of Maple RidgeRead more
Maple Ridge and the Township of Langley, British Columbia, Canada to co-host the Intelligent Community Forum’s Smart21 Communities of 2021 Announcement
Announcement to be part of a 2.5-day conference, “From Surviving to Thriving” using the ICF Method
(New York, NY, USA; Maple Ridge, BC, Canada and the Township of Langley, BC, Canada – September 10, 2020) – The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) today named Maple Ridge and the Township of Langley in British Columbia, Canada as co-hosts of the February 2021 ICF Smart21 Conference: From Surviving to Thriving using the ICF Method. The Smart21 Communities announcement will take place as part of a 2.5-day conference from February 21-23, 2021.Read more
Many communities are by now familiar with the annual selection and awards process of ICF. Selecting the Smart21, then the Top7 and ultimately the most Intelligent Community of the Year occurs in several phases and in many ways. There are rigorous quantitative evaluations conducted by an outside consultancy, field trips, a review by an independent panel of leading experts/academic researchers and a vote by a larger group of experts.
Although communities like to focus on the #1 spot, the biggest distinctions are not between the #1 and the others in the Top7, but between the Smart21 and the Top7. An especially important part of the selection of the Top7 from the Smart21 is an independent panel’s assessment of the projects and initiatives that justify a community’s claim to being Intelligent.Read more
Lenchiang County, commonly known as the Matsu Islands, is an archipelago of 5 major islands and 31 islets. Matsu is situated in the northwest of Taiwan approximately 250km from Taipei. Expanding on its traditionally service-based economy, Matsu has focused mainly on growing its tourism appeal over the last few decades, emphasizing its many cultural sites such as the Matsu Folk Culture Museum, Ching-Kuo Memorial Hall and War and Peace Memorial Park Exhibition Center as well as its natural treasures like the Matsu Island Bird Sanctuary that spans eight islands. To improve its appeal to tourists and the lives of those who call the islands home, Matsu is bringing modern comfort and conveniences to its population as well as visitors in the form of better connectivity, digital access, healthcare improvements and much more.
The Matsu Links
Over the last decade Matsu has created Internet links to transfer patient data to teaching hospitals and specialized hospitals in the Taipei area. Though it is over an hour from major Taipei hospitals by medivac helicopter, Matsu now can start general diagnosis at the county hospital and transfer the diagnostic results instantly to Taipei so that doctors there can be prepared with the patient's information and provide better care for the patient upon arrival. This service is used twice a month on average and has already saved numerous lives and improved the quality of medical care available to residents.
Promoting the "Smart Learning" Project
As a remote island community, Matsu is committed to closing the digital divide and information gap between urban and remote communities. Matsu's "Smart Learning" project helps them do this by focusing on resources and training for students. There are 133 free public Wi-Fi hotspots in Matsu, covering all public libraries and middle schools. The libraries also provide free access to computers with broadband connection. To facilitate usage, the community holds semi-annual basic training courses in computer skills.
Over 6 years of the program, Matsu schools have provided one tablet PC for every student, one desktop computer on campus for elementary and junior high school, and one desktop computer for every two students in senior high schools for digital learning on campus. As part of the "Smart Learning" project, Matsu focused not only on digital access for students, but their wellbeing too - creating a happy learning culture using in-class games and activities. Matsu is cooperating with National Chi Nan University (NCNU) and the Tainan University of Technology (TUT) to create a better digital learning environment. Programming resources from NCNU are used to enhance data collection; big data analysis is then performed to understand students’ learning experiences, and teaching suggestions are provided to help instructors make decisions about whether a student needs further attention or not. TUT also designed a graphical user interface to help students focus on learning and to improve their interactive digital learning environment on campus.
Since its first submarine data transmission cable linking the islands to Taiwan was completed in 1999, Matsu has completed two more submarine fiber optic cables in 2012 and 2014. Matsu is committed to digital access and has 34 4G cell towers and hundreds of signal amplifiers across the islands—which are only 29.2 sq km total—providing nearly 100% cell coverage. Household access to wired broadband is 95%, compared to a national average of 62%. Matsu's next broadband infrastructure project is to upgrade the free Wi-FI system to 100MB/s downstream in densely populated areas and commercial districts and to add Wi-Fi hotspots to the inter-island ferries for all visitors. A task force has been set up to build a solid foundation for the upcoming 5G system to make sure that Matsu keeps pace with the next generation of digital connection.
The Low-Carbon and Sustainable Island Program
Matsu is creating an energy-efficient, low-carbon community while making sure to maintain its status as an attractive eco-tourism destination. As part of the low-carbon and sustainable island program, Matsu is educating and supporting residents in the installation of efficient shower heads, toilets and other water appliances that can conserve water. Additionally, to better conserve electricity, the authorities are encouraging households to replace light fixtures, bulbs and home appliances with models that bear the Green Mark, and to turn lights and appliances off when not in use. At the same time, they are educating the people to reduce food wastes and recycle household garbage. Public buildings that were replaced since 2010 all meet green building requirements for environmentally responsible practices and resource efficiency.
Matsu has replaced street lamps with energy-saving fixtures and has begun teaching community environmental education programs that focus on carbon-reduction concepts. Matsu’s public recycling system is ranked first among Taiwan’s waste-recycling programs. Matsu also has the lowest rate of automobile ownership in Taiwan, which is attributed to its effective free bus system for local residents. Matsu has 200 electric scooters available for rental to reduce pollution and traffic congestion as well.
Famous for its mussels, a stop at the Mussel-tasting Festival is an essential part of any summer tour of Matsu. Matsu has pioneered the usage of new ocean-farming technology to build a sustainable mussel farming industry. Marine research shows that mussels are filter-feeders that eat tiny organisms from the sea water, which gradually cleans the water. The four local mussel farms producing up to 300 kilograms of mussels per day not only make Matsu's signature food sustainable but also make nearby ocean waters cleaner at the same time.
The number of domestic and foreign tourists to Matsu has increased from 144,500 in 2015 when Matsu initiated the Matsu Eco-tourism Travel Plan to over 200,000. Matsu has reduced the price of its buses to $1.50 USD and has added real-time bus schedules via GPS tracking and comprehensive electronic signage at all bus stops. Visitors have access to the same real-time public transit information on the web, accessible via iMatsu free Wi-Fi hotspots available at many bus stations and all ferry ports. Matsu has also set up an array of weather sensors to make up-to-date air quality, temperature, wind direction, etc. available to visitors. Due to demand for tour guides outpacing the number of trained tour guides, Matsu has begun encouraging students to participate in junior guide short-term training tours. Matsu has also prepared an extensive recorded self-guided tour system available to backpackers at the Nangan Airport or any Matsu visitor center.
Green spaces in Matsu offer residents and visitors great opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking and camping. Surveys show that Matsu has approximately 24 square meters of park and green-belt space per person, ranking the islands number 1 in Taiwan. Matsu Geopark is part of Taiwan’s geopark network. Eighty-six percent of the islands’ area is covered by trees, and they are full of geological features, historic military tunnels, ocean landscapes, and traditional stone houses. Visitors can walk around one of the islands within a single day. Matsu has taken the steps to protect its natural beauty for today’s residents, tourists and future generations while making the islands an ever-more-efficient and pleasant place to call home.