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.
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.
The town of Newmarket was born from revolution – specifically, the one that broke out south of Canada’s border with America in 1775. For members of the Quaker faith there, the patriotic fervor of revolutionary America signaled that a people committed to nonviolence might not be welcome in the new nation. By 1800, Timothy Rogers of Vermont was exploring an area around the Holland River north of Toronto, looking for a new home. Winning a grant for a large amount of land there, several Quaker families soon settled in the area and were joined by others over the next decades.
They chose well. Newmarket was a natural stop on a river route that connected Toronto, on the shores of Lake Ontario, to Lake Simcoe to the north at a time when rivers meant trade and power for industry. The village thrived as a farming community, industrial center and market town. Two centuries later, that same location is just as valuable, though for different reasons.
Toronto, on Newmarket’s southern border, is Canada’s biggest city and top center for business finance, arts and culture. The seat of the Regional Municipality of York, Newmarket serves as a bedroom community to Toronto and benefits from its economic heft. Its local economy prioritizes business and administrative services, the knowledge industries, advanced manufacturing and retail, reflecting the principal drivers of Toronto’s larger economy.
For years, however, this town of 88,000 has worked to build an economic base that can stand on its own as well as benefit from Toronto’s proximity. Because, in the digital economy, the power of location is giving way to the power of intention: the commitment to meet the challenges of change and seize the opportunities it brings.
Newmarket’s agenda for change is built on a foundation of collaboration among local and regional government, business, academia, nonprofits and citizens. This kind of community-led development can be slow – but the gains it achieves last longer than the careers of individual leaders and create institutions that drive progress.
One of those institutions is the Smart City Council. Formed in 2011, it is a team of leaders from government, businesses, universities, colleges, hospitals and citizen groups. Their goal is to develop innovative projects that leverage their combined assets to address new opportunities for the town. They serve as catalysts and connectors to the launch of new projects, champions for their value and cultivators of community engagement. Nearly every Intelligent Community project launched by Newmarket has its origins in the Council.
Create It, Make It
Two projects stand out. CreateIT Now began life as a healthcare incubator where multiple partners would help commercialize new healthcare technologies. It succeeded in that vision, offering advice on business, finance and law as well as high-quality work space and a prototyping facility. Since its launch in 2015, it has served about 40 companies per year with counsel and assistance in winning grant funding. Six have gone on to complete testing of new technology in healthcare settings and win their first customers.
Since launch, however, the model has evolved. Healthcare startups fail in large part because they cannot get access to a healthcare facility until they have a product to sell. CreateIT Now has broken through that barrier with the help of founding partners Southlake Regional Health Center and York University. Their Health Ecosphere Innovation Pipeline program guides the development of personalized healthcare technologies and new enterprise solutions for customizing care with the active involvement of medical staff and testing in the hospital environment. Technologies already emerged from the pipeline are improving procurement with potential savings in the millions, preventing and killing infections in catheters, and empowering patients to self-schedule and manage appointments for complex tests.
The same kind of collaboration led to the launch of NewMakeIt, a makerspace founded in 2016. It offers innovators and entrepreneurs a coworking and fabrication space loaded with equipment, and education programs in skills certification and business. Where CreateIT Now focuses on information technology, NewMakeIt is all about manufacturing. In its first 30 months, it has created 45 new businesses and more than 50 new jobs, with an estimated economic value of C$3.9 million.
Matching People to Opportunities
Newmarket has an economic development problem shared by countless other communities. Focus groups and surveys have shown that employers have a hard time hiring qualified staff, which stunts their growth, while students are unaware of the companies, industries and careers right in their backyard.
Newmarket is meeting the challenge with a set of events and programs aimed at its young people and developed in cooperation with the chamber of commerce, schools and nonprofits. The latest is the Career Pathways Expo, launched in 2018, which where local businesses and post-secondary schools exhibit and attendees can learn about training opportunities in trades and entrepreneurship. Interactive tools also help students, teachers and parents explore career pathways and learn career opportunities in the region. The Expo joins programs including the Fast Track Student Conference, which focuses on secondary school students who have not registered for higher education, and an ICE Challenge that brings students together in a hackathon environment to solve real-world challenges for local employers. Digital Shift @ Library offers training sessions and workshops on digital skills, while the Ignite Conference helps students develop digital portfolios of their skills, experience and goals for presentation to local entrepreneurs.
Infrastructure for the Digital Age
Newmarket’s prosperity has made it an attractive market for broadband providers – but studies by the town uncovered significant underserved areas and lack of competitive pricing for levels of service. Between 2010 and 2014, studies and planning exercises sparked rising awareness of the importance of broadband to the town’s future, culminating in a digital strategy called Innovate Newmarket. It highlighted the need for a locally owned service that could deliver reliable service and good customer support at competitive prices.
In 2018, the town launched, in partnership with the local electric utility, a company called ENVI Networks. ENVI’s stated mission was “to establish Newmarket as a smart city and intelligent community through a high-speed broadband fiber network.” Construction of the core network was completed by the end of that year. It is launching last-mile connections to customers beginning with municipal, university, schools, hospitals and commercial customers.
Another form of infrastructure became a priority project for the town. Newmarket was one of four municipalities to receive government funding to develop a community energy plan. Working with ABB and Siemens, it chose to focus on a unique requirement: establishing a network of heavy-duty charging stations for all-electric transit buses that use local battery storage to reduce impact on the grid during peak travel hours. In a 2-year trial, the project will deploy 6 electric buses and one charging station along their route to explore how such a system will work and the benefits it will deliver in carbon reduction, which are estimated to be 561 tons of CO2.
The value of the trial extends far beyond the municipal border. The province of Ontario is home to approximately 5,000 transit buses. If a well-publicized trial validates the feasibility, economics and carbon impact of the design, the contribution to air quality and carbon reduction from widespread adoption would be vast. And the contribution to Newmarket’s reputation in the province and the nation would be just as large.
Newmarket is another of the smaller, quieter places in the world that is taking effective steps to seize the opportunities of the digital economy and master its sharp challenges. It is not moving fast and breaking things, not launching the next revolution in how we live. It is creating an Intelligent Community by focusing on problems that matter and bringing the entire community to their solution.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand with a metro area spanning 1,388 square kilometers on the southwest tip of the North Island. It ranks among the most livable cities in the world, owing to its low pollution, short commute times, ample public transit, diverse landscapes, nearby parks, forests and mountains. As New Zealand’s capital, Wellington is the center of the nation’s government, but it is also a cultural center. Wellington is home to the National Archives, the National Library, and numerous museums and theaters, as well as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Wellington is exceptionally windy year-round due to its latitude and location on the Cook Straight; in fact, it is the windiest city in the world. The city has harnessed its natural winds by establishing two large wind farms that generate 213 MW of green energy.
With the benefits of being nicknamed "Windy Wellington" comes infrastructural risk. Along with the intense winds, Wellington is located on one of the world's most active fault lines. In 2014 Wellington was accepted into the 100 Resilient Cities Network, and in 2017, the city released the Wellington Resilience Strategy. The Strategy has three goals: (1) that people are connected, empowered and feel part of a community; (2) that decision making is integrated and well informed; and (3) that Wellington's homes, natural and built environment are healthy and robust. These goals were tested both during the development and implementation of the Strategy and again by the 7.8 (Mw) Kaikoura Earthquake which affected the city.
As part of the Wellington Resilience Strategy, Wellington has created collaborative lifelines groups which bring together government, local government, and utility providers to strengthen the city's lifeline infrastructures through investment and greater coordination. The city has implemented Open Data approaches to communicate risk and enable community-based planning responses. In partnership with local companies, Wellington has created a metropolitan-scale VR platform to aid in both real-time response and future city planning for resilience issues. As part of the Wellington Resilience Strategy, the city has also begun proactively strengthening at-risk buildings to withstand earthquakes.
Te Atakura - First To Zero
With the smallest per person carbon footprint in Australasia, Wellington has a strong history in environmental sustainability. Wellington is committed to building on this to reduce their footprint to zero as quickly as practicable. To assist with this, the city is reviewing city plans, transportation investments and the way in which they build. They are also building a climate lab and electrifying Wellington's vehicle fleet. This has been underpinned not only by an active network of partners in the NGO and private sectors, but also a highly engaged community assisting in the development of plans and also taking practical actions such as large-scale tree planting. Wellington has been planting a tree every five minutes for the past 15 years.
Wellington is using its tree planting initiative as part of the Emissions Trading scheme to create new funding streams using the sale of credits to offset the emissions of its tourism industry and provide additional investments in further ecological restoration. Wellington is one of the few cities in the world with increasing native biodiversity thanks to a combination of community-based tree planting on public land, investment in pest control through the Predator Free Wellington program and investment in the native sanctuary Zealandia. The city is also engaging with technical startups and communities through hackathons such as the Climathon and the Zero Carbon Challenge.
Leveraging New Technology to Improve Lives
Wellington has a multitude of initiatives to improve the lives of Wellingtonians through modern technology. The Wellington Trauma Intelligence Group (TIG) is an interagency data-sharing initiative which brings together data from multiple agencies such as the District Health Boards (Hospitals), Ambulances, Police, Accident Compensation Commission, City Council and others to deliver better outcomes for people. TIG has been involved in using data to better tackle alcohol from a public health perspective in order to formulate future policy, manage crowds, plan hospital capacity and formulate responses to storms and earthquakes based on data on the most vulnerable populations. Whare Haora has been installing environmental sensors in people’s homes to identify causes of respiratory illness and to help increase heating efficiency. As part of this initiative, Whare Haora has trained communities in digital literacy and how IoT sensors can be used to proactively address problems and inefficiencies.
Wellington launched the Summer of Tech program to match student interns with local IT startups in 2006. Internship placements have risen from 14 in 2006 to over 4,500 in 2018. This program has been so successful that it has spread to five other cities in New Zealand and has spawned a Summer of Biz program along with a series of bootcamps.
New Zealand's nationwide Ultra-Fast Broadband program, which aims to provide 100Mbit/s downstream and 50Mbit/s upstream to 87% of New Zealand's population by 2022, pairs with all of Wellington's technological and ecological initiatives to make Wellington situated to be a world leader in modern sustainable living in the next decades.
Markham is a metro area of 212 sq km approximately 30km northeast of Toronto. It has a population of over 350,000, making it one of the largest municipalities in Canada. Markham has a bustling tech sector, home to hundreds of corporate head offices and over 1,000 high tech and life science companies. Markham is a leader in digital initiatives, from community support and digital training, to partnerships with high tech industry to next-generation upgrades to municipal services. Markham's role as a digital pioneer has had great results for their community and Markham has shared wisdom gained from these steps with other Canadian municipalities at several national municipal conferences and forums.
Digital Markham Strategy
Markham is home to leading and innovative technology companies in all phases of maturity – from startup to global presence. The city’s population has access to the latest technology and uses it actively, boasting more than 80% PC and device penetration. Markham’s initial digital offerings (including portal, social media and mobile apps) are widely accepted and used. The city is moving forward to become a more digitally enabled and connected city.
The City of Markham Digital Strategy lays out a digital roadmap with explicit steps for the city to follow moving forward, based on collaboration and input from city staff and councilors, residents, businesses, service groups, academics, industry thought leaders and technology experts. Using ideas and feedback from the community, the Strategy identified 4 key areas of focus, each containing a number of significant digital initiatives designed to achieve the vision for Markham’s digital future.
The first key goal in the Digital Markham Strategy is: Engaging and Serving the Community. To meet this goal, the city has developed initiatives to expand and enhance online and mobile service offerings, promote collaboration through digital tools, build centers of excellence for digital literacy and further develop digital democracy. The second goal is: Being the Digital Differentiator for Business, which has led to initiatives that facilitate digital innovation, agility and economic development as well as engaging strategic partners in achieving the Digital Markham vision. The third goal is: Establishing a Digital Workplace. To meet this goal, the city developed initiatives to establish a digital culture and digital operating model at the City, enable business process integration across business units and create the capacity to leverage data as an asset for decision making. With this goal, Markham also aims to create a local climate that will attract and retain young talent. The final goal: Enabling the City as a Platform for Innovation, consists of initiatives to create “living labs” and innovation hubs to demonstrate and facilitate Markham’s new digital character, to implement an open data platform and governance model and to communicate and promote Markham’s identity as a digital destination.
Markham’s capacity for engagement with community members has grown significantly through the recent launch of Your Voice Markham, the city’s online engagement site that seeks ideas and feedback on important city matters. The goal is to empower residents, partners and businesses to be more active in shaping the community and Markham’s future.
Markham Municipal Election - Online Voting Initiative
Markham has exceptional broadband availability and more than 95% adoption of broadband. This allows Markham to be a trailblazer in digital democracy initiatives. A major portion of the city's municipal government services are available online, but the most notable project to take advantage of Markham's broadband availability is Markham's Municipal Election - Online Voting initiative.
The City’s innovative 2018 election model was shaped by Markham’s digital strategy, academic research, rigorous testing and extensive post-vote feedback from voters in previous elections which indicated that accessibility, lack of convenience and time constraints were major reasons people did not vote in the past. The online voting initiative provided increased accessibility and convenience to voters with more hours to vote than ever before. By leveraging broadband access, voters in Markham were able to cast their ballot online anywhere, anytime during the entire voting period using a desktop, tablet or mobile device.
More than 60% of Markham’s diverse population speaks a first language other than English. The online voting initiative allowed key voter information to be provided in the top 6 languages spoken in Markham, effectively reaching eligible voters regardless of their ethnicity. The online voting initiative also provided a fully accessible voting channel to allow persons with disabilities the opportunity to cast a ballot independently online. The Markham Public Library (MPL) conducted lunch and learn sessions for seniors and digital literacy seminars about online voting. The online voting initiative served to promote the extended use of broadband for the significant and important purpose of executing the right to vote and it provided the encouragement and opportunity for more people than ever before to exercise their right to vote at the municipal level and play their part in shaping Markham’s future.
Markham Public Library Digital Inclusion Program
The Markham Public Library (MPL) Digital Inclusion Strategy seeks to provide access to broadband connectivity, digital equipment and tools, as well as learning opportunities necessary to allow citizens to fully use and benefit from digital technologies. All Markham Library branches currently provide public Wi-Fi access that is freely available to visitors. As well, the majority of branches provide multiple public access computers (PACs) that can be reserved for use by all patrons at no charge. This extends the availability and benefits of digital tools to those residents who might not otherwise have access to them. Digital media labs in each branch of the MPL also provide further access to technology. Markham implemented the first digital media lab and makerspace under this strategy at the Aaniin Library, which includes four industry-standard computers set up for graphic design, sound and vision editing, animation and other digital media services. The makerspace features a textile lab, 3D printers and scanners and a commercial-grade laser cutter. Staff provides assistance to patrons in learning this technology, group instruction on premise and in partnership with local schools, and through workshops designed to focus on digital literacy development.
Based on the success of this strategy to date, additional digital media labs are being expanded at MPL’s Angus Glen and Thornhill Community Centre branches. The next phase of this project includes expanding 3D printer access to all branches in the system. In 2020, the city plans to expand the digital literacy strategy further by creating two new labs at the Markham Village and Cornell libraries with specialized technologies, including a sound recording studio to compliment the library's musical instrument lending library and a KidsMakerSpace, featuring toys and tools to teach STEAM principles to preschool children.
STEAM Digital Skills Program
The Markham Public Library offers many STEAM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts & Math) programs to local schools. Teachers book an appointment with the library to have a digital literacy or outreach specialist visit their classroom to lead educational activities while allowing students to use new and exciting technologies. As part of the program, students explore STEAM concepts including engineering, circuit building and coding in order to create a small town with stable structures, functional lighting, moving bridges and purposeful roadways. Through these activities, students develop collaborative and community-building abilities in addition to technical and academic skills. 95% of students who have taken a STEAM workshop with MPL report having more knowledge of the topic, and 88% report feeling more confident. In addition, 90% of students report applying what they learned outside the courses. Similar programs are also available in Library branches for adults and seniors.
In addition to STEAM workshops conducted in conjunction with schools, MPL offers the CoderDojo program. CoderDojo is a global network of free, volunteer-led, independent, community-based programming clubs for young people. During a club meeting, all in attendance learn how to code, develop websites, apps, programs and games and to explore technology. The program targets children ages 8-13 who are interested in growing their digital literacy skills. It seeks to prepare children for a digital future, where coding and programming are part of their careers.
Hardware Catalyst Initiative
The Hardware Catalyst Initiative (HCI) is Canada’s first incubator to focus on hardware and silicon solutions, targeting small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in key sectors including digital media & ICT, advanced manufacturing, health and environment. Announced in June 2019, the HCI includes a $5 million investment over five years through FedDev Ontario’s Regional Innovation Ecosystem funding stream. This initiative is designed to help shorten development cycles and close gaps faced by SMEs. The HCI is driven by ventureLAB, the regional innovation center and technology incubator hub located in Markham and supported by the City. ventureLAB supports technology entrepreneurs through programs focused on capital, talent, technology and customers to advance Canada’s economy on a local, national and global scale.
Beginning in 2017, ventureLAB, together with industry and not-for-profit partners, explored the need and feasibility of a Hardware Catalyst Initiative in Ontario. A common challenge discovered was the lack of access to expensive tools, resources, and clean rooms for SMEs building hardware and silicon technologies in Canada, as well as a significant mentorship and talent gap. In late 2018, they began working on a proposal to establish the Hardware Catalyst Initiative, and in early 2019 submitted a proposal to the Government of Canada’s FedDev Ontario program under the Regional Innovation Ecosystem funding stream. The proposal was accepted and the commitment of a $5 million investment over 5 year for the HCI was announced in June of 2019. As well, ventureLAB is in the process of finalizing collaboration agreements with industry partners for additional funding.
Access to expensive tools, equipment and resources is the top challenge hardware companies face in growing and scaling in Canada. On average, a design license for a small startup team ranges from $50K to $75K per seat, per year, and is available through only two companies, one of whom is a partner in the HCI. The HCI would give SMEs building and leveraging hardware and silicon solutions access to the necessary equipment and industry expertise to accelerate time to market. This will significantly reduce costs, enabling them to become globally competitive Canadian businesses and redeploy valuable capital to hire local talent in Canada, creating a sustainable pipeline of technical and business talent.
Over the next five years, HCI is anticipated to support over 40 small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), create or license more than 30 new intellectual properties (IP), commercialize at least 15 new products or services, and create over 200 new jobs. It will bring focus to this important sector in Southern Ontario and will be a key driver in amplifying the regional economy, and serve as an attraction mechanism for retaining talent, new job creation, attracting R&D dollars, and creating homegrown intellectual property that can be scaled globally. This initiative and many others have positioned Markham as a city with the resources, community and training availability to meet the challenges of the modern world and only grow stronger in the process.
Leeds is the eighth-largest city in the United Kingdom by population, but it proudly claims the third-largest number of jobs, due to fast employment growth in the past decade. That growth is the product of a highly diverse economy, to which finance and business services contribute 38% of total output while 1,800 manufacturing firms employ nearly 40,000 people. Retail, tourism, construction, the creative industries and the public sector make up the rest. The city is home to no less than five universities and the country’s fourth largest student population, and is the vital center of a £56 billion regional economy
Though no longer dominant, manufacturing is in the city’s DNA. Two centuries ago, it was an important center for the wool trade and a major mill town producing wool, flax, iron, printed materials and engineered products. That history also explains the focus of the city’s Intelligent Community programs, many of which target the 24% of the population that live in what national government identifies as districts suffering from multiple forms of deprivation. For all its economic vitality, Leeds ranks 33rd out of more than 300 local authorities in the UK in the proportion of districts in the most deprived 10% nationally. It is a story familiar in cities across the industrialized world, where deprived districts are home to generations of families economically stranded by the decline of low-skilled manufacturing jobs and whose educational qualifications are an increasingly poor fit for the opportunities of the digital age.
The Digital Life
Research suggests that Leeds is home to about 90,000 adults who lack basic digital skills. A program called 100% Digital Leeds, launched in 2016, is a lending program for tablets, those touch-screen devices that provide new users an easy-to-understand online experience. The city works with three organizations across Leeds that target different groups of users. The Refugee Education and Training Advice Service offers classes to immigrant groups studying English as a second language. The Older People’s Action group helps older, often socially isolated people use tablets to book appointments, research health topics and keep in touch with family and friends. A Children’s Services organization works with young people who are aging out of the care system and introduces them to the use of tablets to apply for jobs and prepare for further education.
Leeds Pathways brings this focus on inclusion to young people seeking information about employment and apprenticeships. It is a local government website that sets out career paths open to young people through videos, fact sheets and information on the important and growing employment sectors in the city, from creative and digital to health, professional services and construction. Most important for students without undergraduate or graduate degrees, it provides a route into apprenticeships in these sectors with participating companies.
A Smarter Energy Plan
In 2013, Leeds launched the first phase of a city-wide district heating network: a system of underground pipes that deliver heat via hot water to buildings on the network. It represented a multi-pronged approach to a future for the city that is sustainable in environmental, financial and inclusion terms. The project began with construction of a recycling and energy recovery facility to generate the heat for the network, which was completed in 2016. By early 2019, the city finished installing pipes and had begun installation work in buildings.
The completed network is expected to reduce the city’s total carbon emissions by 22,000 tons per year, which will contribute to city-wide target of 40% CO2 reduction from 2005 to 2020. At the same time, it will reduce annual heating fuel bills by up to £250 per household, benefitting all residents and in particular low-income households struggling with fuel poverty. The project has also become a showcase with local educational impact: students from the local Co-operative Academy study the project as part of climate change studies and even developed its local brand of “Leeds PIPES.”
Innovating in Connectivity and Business
With its vibrant economy, Leeds is well-served for broadband connectivity, but coverage is uneven because the large municipal footprint includes suburban and rural areas. The city, together with West Yorkshire and the European Union, have funded deployment of “superfast broadband” offering download speeds of up to 80 Mbps. Phase one of the project, beginning in 2013, made service available to more than 64,000 homes and businesses. Phase two, launched in 2015, extended the network to an additional 33,000 homes and businesses.
Connectivity is at the heart of ODI Leads, a project inspired by the founding of the Open Data Institute (ODI) in London by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt. A partnership of ODI, city councils, West Yorkshire, a university and private companies, ODI Leeds hosts events to bring together a community of innovators, produces open data projects and promotes understanding of open data in the region. Its projects have included a UK Tech Innovation Index, apps to help travel and emergency services in the region, and energy education for schools.
The city’s mix of social policy, technology and entrepreneurship is summed up in the Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy (www.leedsgrowthstrategy.co.uk). It sets out how city council, the private sector, universities, colleges, schools and social enterprises will work together to grow an economy ensuring that everyone in the city contributes to and benefits from growth.
The strategy updates a plan published in 2010 and sets out 12 “big ideas” – an action plan for 2018-2023 to encourage inclusive growth in the city by supporting people, places and productivity. They range from doubling the size of the city center to developing Leeds as a digital city and backing innovators and entrepreneurs building the next generation of successful businesses. Though the word does not appear in any of its discussions, the Strategy envisions an Intelligent Community rising in the British Midlands that not only creates prosperity but ensures it is shared widely among its people.
In this episode of The Intelligent Community, ICF Co-Founder Lou Zacharilla interviews Rochester's Mark Buckley and the Center for Technology in Government's Meghan Cook about New York - the state, not the city - and intelligent community development.
Three Australian cities and two in New Zealand have made the short list produced by the New York based Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) for recognition as being the world’s smartest community.
The think tank has named Adelaide, Prospect (SA), the Sunshine Coast, Wellington and Whanganui in a list of 21 cities to begin its annual eight-month process that will conclude with it naming the 2020 Intelligent Community of the Year in June 2020 at the ICF Summit.Read more