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.
Seat Pleasant was known in its early days as Chesapeake Junction, as it was the home of the first Chesapeake Beach Railway station. The city’s fortunes have long been tied to travel, first to the railway, which brought enough growth for incorporation in the 1930s before it closed down, and then to the George Palmer Highway, later renamed the Martin Luther King Jr. Highway. Seat Pleasant has suffered from many of the troubles common to small cities in semi-rural areas, such as low access to broadband connectivity and difficulties connecting people with other services. But like its early namesake, the city aims to become a new sort of junction in the modern world, a place where people and services connect to bring growth and hope to a stronger community.
Creating Partnerships through the Center for Government Synergism
Due to its small size, Seat Pleasant has limited resources and has therefore focused on making best use of what it has available. The City government created The Center for Government Synergism (CGS) in 2017 to promote easy cooperation between government, businesses, non-profits, educational institutions and all citizens. CGS uses data sharing, including that collected by IoT sensors, to help with all levels of decision making for the city. Since its establishment, CGS has directed the creation of the “My Seat Pleasant” app connected to a Smart City Platform titled “The Shared Services Hub.” The “My Seat Pleasant” app provides Seat Pleasant residents, businesses and city employees with multiple online features, including services requests, a library of city codes, a city document library, city directory, on-demand broadcast notifications, garbage/recycling and snow removal schedules, city job listings, an online payment portal and event and activity listings. With access to so much more data through the app, citizens and businesses are kept informed and are provided with easy ways to connect with the government and share opinions and suggestions for future legislation and other efforts.
Becoming a Test Bed of Innovation
To encourage innovation and outside investment, Seat Pleasant has branded itself the “Test Bed of Innovation,” by providing support for start-ups and established companies wishing to test new technologies and solutions. Since rebranding, the City has become host to several pilot projects, including a partnership between AECOM, Verizon and PEPCO to set up smart street light project for energy savings and intelligent traffic and public safety solutions. Another pilot project, established in partnership with the Greater Washington Board of Trade, has created digital city kiosks throughout Seat Pleasant to provide additional information to supplement the “My Seat Pleasant” app. A local IoT company, WIOMAX, in partnership with the NIST GCTC Project, launched a pilot project in Seat Pleasant for traffic management solutions, aiming to optimize the flow of vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist traffic at key intersections throughout the city.
Providing Education and Health Services for the Chronically Underserved
The City has taken further steps as the “Test Bed of Innovation” by partnering with local education institutions to create a Smart Cities Curriculum for adult retraining and advancement at Prince George’s Community College and a Remote Health Monitoring Program in partnership with the same institution and Harrisburg University. The Smart Cities Curriculum provides training in business process improvement and a high-level overview of cyber-physical systems, sensor technologies, cloud computing, data storage, data mining and business analytics as well as security and privacy challenges related to IoT. The course also explores how digital devices and data analytics can serve the needs of businesses and society and how city government can make use of data visualization to make intelligent economic and strategic decisions. Upon completing the course, students earn a certification that qualifies them for entry-level technology jobs in the Smart City space.
Seat Pleasant’s Remote Health Monitoring (RHM) program aims to promote wellness and provide access to timely, necessary health care services for aging citizens and those with disabilities. The RHM program focuses on using remote patient monitoring technology, assistive technologies, wearable IoT devices and connected devices. The data provided by these devices inform caregivers of any serious issues in time to act while allowing the residents wearing them to go about their daily lives comfortably and independently.
To further facilitate these programs and others, Seat Pleasant is leveraging its designations as an Opportunity Zone and a distressed community to access programs such as the FCC’s Lifeline program in an effort to promote greater broadband adoption. The City is also working to deploy 5G and city-wide Wifi services free of charge for impoverished citizens to support its many innovative programs. Connecting citizens, government and local businesses is at the heart of Seat Pleasant’s Intelligent Community journey, and the city strives every day to strengthen those connections for a more prosperous future.
Photo by Famartin. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
The pandemic revealed the essential role of broadband today. It also exposed as never before the dire consequences of the digital divide and the explosive impact of social media in spreading misinformation, fear and outrage. Panelists discuss what the pandemic has taught them about making broadband access more equitable and managing its downsides.
The East Central Region of Minnesota encompasses 5 counties: Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs and Pine. Like many regions of the midwestern United States, the East Central Minnesota has long had a primarily agricultural and mining-focused economy, and though the area’s iron deposits are now depleted, dairy, corn and soybean farms still dot the region, as well as paper production companies due to the region’s many softwood forests, including the Chippewa National Forest. East Central Minnesota has more recently focused on a growing tourism industry to support the area during economic transition, as the region is home to many beautiful lakes.
When local mining and, to a lesser extent, agricultural industries began to fail, the East Central Region shifted toward a service-based economy like many of its fellow U.S. communities, but the region aims to turn hardship into an opportunity for growth and attracting new industries. Beginning in 2001, the 5 counties of the region formed the Northern Technology Initiative, which is today known as GPS 45:93, the longitude and latitude coordinates of where they all meet. GPS 45:93 includes city and council economic development managers, private companies and public entities, community and regional organizations, workforce and tribal partners, all working together to improve East Central Minnesota’s ability to compete in a modern economy and attract new businesses and infrastructure investments.
Connecting Residents with the Tools to Succeed
Like many regions with major rural stretches, East Central Minnesota has struggled to bring reliable broadband access to its residents. Many citizens in the region have little access to computers or internet services, leaving them unable to participate in an increasing online economy.
While the county governments work to find the best solution for connectivity, the East Central Regional Library (ECRL) system has worked to the fill the gaps in access for all citizens. The system consists of 14 library branches and 8 outreach sites across the 5 counties as well as neighboring Aitkin. The ECRL provides access to computers, broadband internet service including free wireless access within the library branches and technical support and assistance, as well as intermittent technology training classes. The library system’s website (ecrlib.org) connects library card users to research databases such as EBSCO and Gale, online learning classes including Universal Class, Hoonuit and Mango languages and a large collection of eBooks, eAudiobooks and eMagazines containing a wealth of information and research materials. Library staff provide in-person assistance for those looking to use the ECRL’s wealth of services and also provide chat reference services 24/7 through the statewide AskMN service. Just over 50% of the region’s citizens have active library cards, and many of the library resources are accessible even without one, leading to nearly 500,000 library visits across the region in 2018 alone.
Training the Next Generation Workforce
To support a changing economy, East Central Minnesota needs workers trained in a wide variety of new and traditional skills. GPS 45:93’s workforce committee established the Innovative Approaches to Career Readiness program in 2017 and held its first event in May 2018. The event featured speakers from local high schools and academies with innovative programs already established to assist students in identifying career paths available to them in the region and providing them with appropriate advice and training. Innovative Approaches to Career Readiness aimed to bring representatives from regional high schools and local businesses together in collaboration so that high schools could create new programs to help teach the skills local businesses particularly need to succeed. GPS 45:93 followed up the May event with a tour of Cardinal Manufacturing at the Eleva-Strom High School, a student-run manufacturing company.
The region held the second Innovative Approaches to Career Readiness event in May of 2019, showcasing a panel of new schools and their students sharing programs and projects. The second event highlighted students from a culinary program, a nursing assistant program, multiple apprenticeships and CEO programs. Presenters also shared region labor market and training information, and GPS 45:93 announced the availability of grant funding for schools to start new career initiatives and projects in the future, with 3 schools receiving such grants in the same year they were announced.
Collaborating to Reduce Regional Waste
The 5 counties of East Central Minnesota joined together to form the East Central Solid Waste Commission in 1988 with the goal of establishing solid-waste disposal and recycling programs for the region. Since its founding, the commission has created joint recycling centers, landfills and compost disposal areas, as well as providing collection services for construction and demolition debris and methane for fuel production. It has passed resolutions making on-site disposal of garbage illegal, reducing many of the negative side effects of solid waste disposal throughout the region. With its infrastructure firmly in place, the commission now focuses on education and institutional awareness, providing training in best practices for disposal to promote public health and cost effectiveness. The East Central Solid Waste Commission also serves as the region’s manager for sustainability program grant applications and opportunities such as Green Corps. Residential recycling in the East Central Region has increased by 30% since instituting these training and education programs, with 88% of local businesses recycling paper, 60% recycling plastics, 47% recycling metal and glass and 38% recycling special items such as electronics and batteries. Providing convenient means to recycle such specialized items is the East Central Solid Waste Commission’s next goal for the future.
In times of increasing economic uncertainty, the East Central Region of Minnesota has focused first and foremost on itself as a community, bolstering opportunities for residents to meet whatever the future holds in store.
Elefsina, known to the Greeks as Eleusis, is a suburb of Athens, home to 30,000 people. It is a major industrial area, where most crude oil in Greece is imported and refined. Generations of unfettered industrial development has left a legacy of abandoned factories. But the European Union also named it one of three 2021 Cultural Capitals of Europe because of its rich history as a religious center and its establishment in 1975 of the Aeschylia, one of the most important theater festivals in Greece. It honors the tragic poet Aeschylus, who was born in the city.
With carbon-reduction goals crimping the growth potential of oil, the city is turning to the ICF Method to expand its economy in new directions.
A New Generation of Innovators
An early-stage adopter of the Method, Elefsina is focused on building the key components of a skilled workforce and innovation ecosystem. It is adequately served by three broadband providers, though the costs of connectivity remain high. In 2021, the city put that bandwidth to work with the launch of an Innovation Hackathon focused on smart city solutions, sustainability and agri-food and agri-tourism. Fourteen middle and high schools created teams and developed business ideas in a competition judged by university professors and entrepreneurs. As part of the program, students studied business creation and planning, business models, how to define and pitch a value proposition and basics of finance and investment.
In 2021, Elefsina hosted the third annual edition of StartupNow Forum, the largest innovation, entrepreneurship and technology conference in Greece. The conference features a Startup Innovation Competition, which evaluates the best startups in the country. The October event marked Elefsina’s “coming out” as a contender in technology innovation.
Opening the Gate
In the same year, Elefsina used national government funding to launch a Business Education and Business Gate program. The content being developed includes financial evaluation tools and briefings on national and European Union sources of funding. The Business Gate is a matchmaking program that connects local companies with each other and businesses from neighboring municipalities.
This Athens suburbs has outlined a roadmap that, with vigorous execution, can build a more diverse and innovative economy. Elefsina seeks nothing less than a local economy that, leveraging its proximity to the nation’s capital, can also stand proudly on its own.
Photo by Davide Mauro. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Communities from nine nations, including Greece and New Zealand, named this year
(24 February 2022 – Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada & New York, New York, USA) – At the conclusion of a virtual conference co-hosted by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) and Economic Development Winnipeg, ICF today named the world’s Smart21 Communities of 2022. The selection of the annual Smart21 Communities of the Year marks the beginning of the annual nine-month process which will conclude when ICF names the 2022 Intelligent Community of the Year in October at the ICF Summit. Winnipeg was the 2021 Intelligent Community of the Year.
Each of the cities, towns, or regions that appear in the Smart21 have 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
“Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” -Voltaire
The violence you saw on January 6 in the USA was not accidental. The violence was the point! Donald Trump used violence like a mobster to work over the American electorate and to let them know that next time it would be worse if they didn’t play along. Time will tell if the most robust of democratic nations and its oldest living republic will manage through the political plague. So far, the chisel to cut the stone for a new monument to civil unity seems dulled.
Political violence has been a tactic of every disgruntled, bullying ideologue or insurgency for as long as we have organized ourselves into communities. We saw it recently in Afghanistan. Despite the effort of people like ICF Visionary of the Year Amirzai Sangin to bring the nation into a new era through broadband communications, civil progress was thwarted.Read more
Winnipeg to co-host the Intelligent Community Forum’s Smart21 Communities of 2022 Announcement on February 24
Announcement to be part of a half-day conference, “From Conflict to Community” using the ICF Method
(New York, NY, USA and Winnipeg, MB, Canada – February 3, 2022) – The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) in partnership with Economic Development Winnipeg will co-host a February 24 online conference, From Conflict to Community: How Cities and Regions Can Restore a Culture of Human Connection. The half-day virtual conference also features the announcement of the ICF Smart21 Communities of 2022.
The announcement of the Smart21 Communities starts the 9-month journey towards naming the 2022 Intelligent Community of the Year, the community that best exemplifies the success factors of the ICF Method. Seven of these 21 communities will go on to be named Top7 Intelligent Communities of the Year in June, and one will be named Intelligent Community of the Year at the ICF Summit in October. The City of Winnipeg was the 2021 Intelligent Community of the Year.Read more
Townsville enjoys a seaside location with more than 300 days of sunshine per year and is often considered the capital of Northern Queensland, Australia. But it is no stranger to crisis, from the loss of key industries to natural disaster. It is pushing back with a relentless focus on innovation. The city has been and still is an industrial center, as it is home to one of the world’s largest zinc refineries, a major nickel refinery and other industries. Townsville is currently expanding its port as part of a $30 million operation to allow for passage of larger cargo and passenger ships. The city also contains a number of natural attractions, including “The Strand,” a long beach and garden strip, the Riverway parkland on the banks of the Ross River, a large tropical aquarium and museum, among others. Townsville aims to build on these strengths with further innovation and engagement with its own people and many visitors.
Northern Australia’s physical distance from major markets has made access to affordable, high-speed internet access historically difficult. This has led to newer businesses, particularly in digital services, lagging substantially behind traditional industries in the region. The city aims to change that with the Townsville Connect program. The program will bring together multiple commercial partners in the region to establish a 10G network between major productive precincts of the city, such as the Health and Knowledge Precinct, as well as tertiary providers, key stakeholders and much of the small-to-medium business community. This first step will dramatically improve connectivity for key areas of the city, attracting new businesses to the region and providing a successful model to further expand broadband access in the future. As of 2020, the Townsville Connect program is midway through the EOI process for commercial partners.
Supporting the Community through Smart Precinct North Queensland
Beginning in 2019, Townsville has partnered with a variety of regional stakeholders, including James Cook University, Burdekin, Hinchinbrook, the Charters Towers and Palm Island Councils, Cubic, Safety Culture, TAFE and local entrepreneurs, to create Smart Precinct North Queensland (SPNQ). SPNQ has established itself as an innovation hub, the center of an innovation ecosystem made up of high-growth companies in North Queensland. Bringing together these stakeholders in one ecosystem will provide much-needed support for local start-ups and established businesses, as they work together to attract investments and build new technologies. Since its launch in 2019, SPNQ has deployed a new incubator program for the region, run eight community events, provided direct support to 25 local businesses and launched a hardware accelerator with a smart manufacturing initiative now in the works.
Building for the Future with the Townsville City Deal
The Townsville City Deal is a 15-year commitment between the national government of Australia, the state government of Queensland and the Townsville City Council. The City Deal lays out a plan for investment in Townsville through which government works with the private sector to improve infrastructure, attract investment, create new jobs and foster growth throughout the community. Thus far, the City Deal has led to a revitalization of the Waterfront Priority Development Area, growth of the Townsville Port and many new investments in the State Development Area. These infrastructure improvements have led to greater export and freight efficiency, facilitating business and service industry developments and making it easier to connect people and places throughout the region.
As of June 2020, the City Deal has led to the creation of the Townsville Smart City Strategy, the new North Queensland Country Bank Stadium and the Haughton Pipeline Duplication Project. It has also attracted significant investments for projects to develop Townsville’s global education and training programs with support from the Queensland Education and Training Partnership Fund.
Creating Water Sensitive Townsville
Beginning in 2015, the Townsville City Council worked with the Cooperative Research Center for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC) to develop a Water Sensitive Vision and Transition Strategy for the city. As a dry tropical city, Townsville requires complex water management to maintain a healthy ecosystem and handle its dramatic natural water cycles. The project has thus far seen more than 7,000 smart water meters installed across the community, with each meter delivering data to a publicly accessible web portal. This allows the government, community members and businesses to identify leaks and other sources of high usage, providing ways to easily reduce water use.
Townsville’s focus on innovation, conservation and engagement with the community on both fronts has the city poised to lead North Queensland into a brighter and more connected future.
Smart21 2021 | 2022
Photo by Leonhard Fortier
Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, is a business and technology center in its own right. The city grew into Canada’s sixth-most-populous municipality in the second half of the 20th century as it attracted a large multicultural population around its thriving central business district. Mississauga is home to Canada’s busiest airport as well as many of the nation’s major corporations. Outside the business district, the city also has an impressive arts community and is home to many major festivals, including Carassauga, the second-largest culture festival in Canada. Many of these festivals take place in Mississauga’s Celebration Square, the city’s recently restructured and vibrant Civic Square. Mississauga began as a collection of many hamlets and villages, each with their own distinct cultural offerings, that have led to the city’s rich and diverse heritage and cultural offerings today.
Ensuring Access Across Mississauga
Mississauga’s impressive business district has made it an attractive market for ISPs. The city encourages continued expansion with a streamlined online system for the trenching and installation permits that ISPs need. Each step in the application process is automated, with the appropriate agencies notified whenever their approval is needed and the ISPs kept in the loop at each step. Mississauga has processed more than 17,000 applications in the past four years. This streamlined process keeps competition strong among ISPs in the area, driving down prices and improving connectivity offerings for the city as a whole.
Leveraging Connectivity to Promote Open Government
Mississauga has leveraged its competitive connectivity to help citizens, from a cloud-based system that makes connecting with government easy to a Digital Main Street program that helps small businesses go online. Established in 2015, Mississauga’s Open Data Policy requires the city to publish much of its collected digital data in an open data portal for easy citizen access. This allows citizens to be better informed about how their government functions and what projects are being given the most attention and funding. To ensure that citizens and businesses make the best use of this data, which now includes 230 total datasets with many more planned, the city provides training in the use of its data portal as well.
In October 2020, Mississauga’s annual hackathon took the form of a Smart City Open Data Challenge. The month-long virtual event saw 9 teams of high-school-aged students – assisted by industry presentations and other guidance from 11 event partners – analyze and develop new strategies for the city’s social and economic resilience, particularly during COVID-19. All insights and strategies were based on open data provided by the city with each student team submission collected and displayed in a Smart City Open Data Showcase available to the whole community. The Smart City Open Data Challenge also provided an opportunity for student participants to build their resumes and network with peers in the larger community.
Closing the Digital Divide
To help citizens take better advantage of improved connectivity, Mississauga instituted a Laptop Lending Program through its public library beginning in 2017. The program includes 100 wireless hotspots, more than 30 Chromebooks and over 100 laptops to be provided to community members without easy computer access for work and school. Patrons with a valid library card can check out the wireless hotspots as needed. Chromebooks are currently only available for use in-library, but the city plans to allow external lending beginning in 2021. The collection of 100 laptops was provided to local school boards to be lent out to children who don’t have access to computers at home for their school work. Laptop lending in schools is currently part of a pilot project with further expansions planned in the future.
Through these and other efforts, Mississauga aims to maintain its strong position in a high-tech future.
Photo by WOMeos