Kingston is one of Canada’s oldest cities, founded at a strategic intersection of lakes and rivers, with an historic waterfront and an employer base of Federal and Provincial agencies that attracts more government grants per capita than any other city in the nation. It has been ranked Canada’s third best place to live and smartest city, thanks to deployment of an open-access community broadband network supplemented with investment in the Eastern Ontario Regional Network bringing 10 Mbps service to rural neighborhoods. More than 90% of Kingstonians now subscribe to broadband. But the economy’s heavy dependence on public sector spending makes Kingston vulnerable to decisions made far away, and local government has developed a multi-faceted strategy to diversify its economy while maintaining the culture and quality of life that residents treasure.
It is aided in this undertaking by the presence of Queen’s University, a top 10 research institution and St. Lawrence College, a 2-year institution with schools of business, computer and engineering technology, health sciences and skilled trades. Queen’s University founded an office in 1987, called PARTEQ Innovations, to identify intellectual property and support its commercialization. PARTEQ went on to build Innovation Park, where academic, business and government researchers work to pioneer new technologies and bring them to market.
Innovation has a particular focus in Kingston. The public, business, education and government have rallied around a goal to make environmental sustainability its focus. Local government launched a community planning process that resulted in Sustainable Kingston, a plan that gave rise to a nonprofit of the same name. As a result, most research and commercialization focuses on greentech and cleantech, from the Federal GreenCentre Canada research lab to a Fuel Cell Research Centre and High-Performance Virtual Computing Lab. Successful businesses are also pioneering in automation, life sciences and health technologies. In addition to sustainability, the city launched a Kingston Culture Plan in 2010 to increase the impact of the city’s already sizeable arts and culture economy, both for its own economic value and its attractiveness to creative professionals. City leaders see these efforts as steps in social transformation, helping a community that is already satisfied with its lot in life to seize the vast potential of the broadband economy.
Labor Force: 90,000
Smart21 2009 | 2014
Kenora is in "cottage country," where seasonal residents double the population in the summer. But the decline of forestry decimated the non-tourism economy, causing Kenora's best and brightest young people to leave town. In response, Kenora launched a Web portal strategy to leverage its 80% penetration rate for wired and wireless broadband. The goals were to make Kenora even more attractive to part-timers and visitors by providing anytime-anywhere access to services, while also supporting local business and building a broadband culture of use. Through the portal, visitors and seasonal residents can reserve facility, apply for permits and learn what's going on in town. Businesses create their own Web sites with e-commerce capabilities and promote tourism through GIS-enabled interactive search. Community groups build Web sites, recruit volunteers, solicit donations and collaborate online.
The Golden Horseshoe is the region that bends around the westernmost end of Lake Ontario in Canada. At the center of the horseshoe’s curve is Hamilton, a city of 520,000 known for industry, education and cultural diversity, having the third-largest foreign-born population in the country. Located 70 kilometers southwest of Toronto (the 2014 Intelligent Community of the Year), Hamilton was once known as the Steel Capital of Canada, producing 60% of the nation’s steel. It is also a successful lake port city and operates an airport that saw passenger traffic grow tenfold from 1996 to 2002. A 30-year economic development plan begun in 2003 set the goal of creating a massive aerotropolis industrial park around that airport to capitalize on its success.
From Steel to Fiber
Being an industrial city in the broadband economy, however, has its challenges. Its biggest steel producer nearly went bankrupt before returning to profitability in 2004. It subsequently sold out to US Steel, which decided to close its Hamilton operation in 2013.
Hamilton’s economic development effort now focuses on playing to its 21st Century strengths. In 2014, it established HCE Telecom as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the city. HCE has deployed a 10-gigabit fiber network to serve city facilities, business, universities and hospitals and make the city more attractive to leading-edge employers. More than 160 Hamilton locations currently receive service. The company has also put forth a plan to bring 10-gigabit access to Hamilton’s rural community with funding from the Connect to Innovate Fund.
In March of 2017, HCE acquired Sunrise Interactive Net6, which is an organization that specializes in on-shore, near-shore, and offshore Internet solutions. HCE plans to use Sunrise’s expertise to deliver new hosting, disaster recovery, call center and data center options for the area.
Forging New Companies
City leaders have come to recognize that, in the past, the city wasted too much of potential of its educational institutions including McMaster University and Mohawk College. It has worked with university leaders to open McMaster Innovation Park and a second incubator downtown, which together house 23 startups focused on computer hardware and consumer technology. In September 2015, it opened a third facility called The Forge, which provides university students and community youth with entrepreneurship training, access to prototyping and production facilities, and help in starting their own businesses. The city is also in early talks with hospitals, academic institutions and the Chamber of Commerce on developing a life sciences cluster to leverage its strong hospital network and health research organizations.
To further engage students in Hamilton, Mohawk College has partnered with the City of Hamilton, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic School Board and other industry partners to start the College in Motion and City School programs. The College in Motion program places staff in various Hamilton high schools and community centers where they can provide information and support to students looking to enter post-secondary education. Staffers provide one-on-one counselling and advice, including identifying students’ areas of interest and connecting them with college faculty members for further support. The City School program provides free education opportunities to students in high-risk areas, including specialized learning programs, workshops and other services to help students seek post-secondary education. The program launched a new mobile classroom with over 1,000 square feet of learning space in the fall of 2017.
Creating New Land
With a lack of new land for development, Hamilton has focused on remediation of industrial brownfield sites. Through an innovative program called ERASE, it offers financial incentives to companies to clean up and repurpose polluted sites. From 2011 to 2014, the city approved more than 130 development grant applications worth more than C$20 million. Redevelopment underway has already generated C$3 million in construction and created 650 jobs.
The city has also focused its efforts on cleaning and revitalizing the Hamilton Harbour with the help of the provincial and federal governments via the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan. Beginning in 1989, the city has built nine combined sewer overflow (CSO) tanks to capture untreated sanitary and storm sewage during storms to keep it from being returned to the water supply until treated. Hamilton has dramatically revitalized the shoreline through the Pier 4 Park and Bayfront Park developments in the West Harbour, transforming what was once an industrial landfill site into a beautiful recreational public space. The city is also currently working on wastewater treatment plant upgrades and a variety of other projects to fully restore and enhance the Harbour’s ecosystem, including commissioning a LEED-certified environmental laboratory at the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The decline of industrial employment has stranded workers who do not possess the skills and access to technology to compete in the broadband economy. A Hamilton charity operates a successful digital equality program called GreenBYTE that collects end-of-life computer systems, refurbishes them, and provides them to low-income households at no cost. It also provides computer certification training to low-income individuals. Since 2001, GreenBYTE has donated more than 12,000 computers to households, helped 100 graduates receive computer certifications and upgraded an after-school computer lab for the city.
In addition to providing computer access to households in need, Hamilton has focused on introducing local youth to digital learning at an early age. The Hamilton Code Clubs (HCC) is an initiative of the Industry Education Council (IEC) and Software Hamilton. Now in its third year of operation, HCC has had over 1,800 student participants aged 9 to 14 years old. The program teaches students core programing fundamentals during lunch breaks or after school, as well as bringing youth from across the city together to create video and data management games and websites and to program SPRK Sphero robots. HCC now includes weekend programs at the Hamilton Public Library and summer and robotics camps.
Geography, trade, industry and hard work built Hamilton’s successful economic past. Its future will leverage those same assets to create an economy that can prosper in the digital era.
Smart21 2016 | 2018
At a time when governments around the world are becoming deeply involved in managing their economies, Fredericton owes its place among the Top Seven Intelligent Communities to decisions to reduce the role of government in the local economy.
In colonial days, Fredericton served as the anchor of a vibrant regional economy based on trade with America's New England states. But over time, economic power gradually concentrated in the nation's geographic center, leaving the eastern provinces to become "branch office economies" dependent on decisions made elsewhere. It became so common for people to move west in search of economic opportunity that Frederictonians called it "goin' down the road."
Fredericton is the capital of the province of New Brunswick and public-sector employment shielded the community for many years from economic decline. Then in the mid-1980s, the Canadian Federal government began running large deficits and responded by offloading public costs onto provincial and municipal governments. By the 1990s, Fredericton found itself with a government that was too large, a private sector too anemic to support it, and a doubtful future.
Building a Knowledge Economy
Local government responded in 1992 with an economic development strategy called Vision 2000. It called on Fredericton to build an economy based on its unique human and economic assets, and to stop looking to others to save the day. The study itself was probably less important than the people who participated in developing it. They included city officials, university leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, real estate developers, the region's telecom firms, the hydro-electric utility and a representative of a small group of software investors.
The universities had long played a major role in Fredericton's economy and culture. The University of New Brunswick (UNB) is Canada's oldest English-languge university and the first to create a computer science faculty and offer forest engineering programs. Saint Thomas University is Canada's only university focusing exclusively on teaching the liberal arts. The Maritime College of Forestry Technology is a business-government co-op that supports excellence in the management of one of Canada's most important natural resources. Through Vision 2000, the university sector began to engage in serious ways with both local government and the private sector. In 1994, UNB partnered with the city to develop the Knowledge Park, offering office space for knowledge-based businesses. The project plan emphasized quality of life with, in addition to office space, wooded areas, walking trails, and both daycare and pre-school facilities onsite. By 2007, the Park held three completed buildings totaling 90,000 square feet (8,360 m²) with a fourth 90,000 sf building under construction, and tenants included tech companies such as CGI, SkillSoft and Q1 Labs as well as the Wyndham hotel chain and the owner of the University of Phoenix, the Apollo Group.
It was the small group of software investors, however, who probably had the biggest impact. They saw Vision 2000 as an opportunity and used the government's clear show of support to form the first informal executive network in the community. Their timing was good. As provincial and local government froze hiring and began to downsize, the best and brightest civil servants left to start "knowledge sector" businesses in technology and services. They found support both from private investors and programs introduced by the provincial and Federal governments, including the Atlantic Innovation Fund, the BREAKTHRU Business Plan Competition and the Industrial Research Assistance Program.
The Vision 2000 plan was updated in 2001 and then every three years after that. It began to target development in specific sectors such as e-learning, aerospace training, health, network security and multimedia games. The 2004 plan included a bold statement of purpose: that economic development should focus first and foremost on supporting locally-owned firms and give second place to business attraction. That commitment was no doubt made easier by a track record of success. In 2005, the knowledge sector employed more people than did the provincial government for the first time in history.
But Fredericton's government, under the leadership of Mayor Brad Woodside, refused to leave all the innovating to business. Following the 1992 study, Fredericton launched a set of business process improvement programs to streamline and make more efficient a government that clearly had too many moving pieces. To further drive the process, the city entered the ISO-9001 quality management process, which forced it to understand, clarify and document everything government did. In May 2004, Fredericton passed its audit and became one of the few ISO-9001 certified cities in North America.
To support its focus on growing local business, Fredericton launched a series of awards for business excellence and contributions to quality of life, which targeted small and micro businesses as well as mid-size and large companies and the entrepeneurs who built them. The city also began to focus on a weakness becoming increasingly apparent as the Nineties gave way to the new century.
The Broadband Barrier
As demand for Internet connectivity rose across Canada, Fredericton found itself a "have not" community. Carriers focused investment in the same geographic center that had so long dominated the Canadian economy and showed no interest in upgrading dial-up service in the "outer provinces." After lobbying proved unsuccessful, Fredericton decided to form its own telecommunications company. e-Novations was established as a co-op. It obtained funding commitments from 12 founding members – including the city, the universities, business users and the region's largest Internet Service Provider – and used it to build a fiber ring connecting to their facilities. It then pooled their demand and purchased broadband capacity in bulk. Each member paid for a minimum guaranteed bandwidth, but had the ability to tap any unused bandwidth in the system on demand. Because networks tend to have substantial idle capacity, e-Novations immediately reduced the members' cost and established a new competitive price point in the region. By mid-2002, e-Novations had a stable fiber ring and positive cash flow but struggled with how to meet demand from new prospective members outside the downtown core. The answer proved to be point-to-point microwave links to such facilities as the local airport, which could be set up quickly and at lower cost than fiber to the premises. When commercial carriers became members of e-Novations in order to resell broadband to their small business and residential customers, it was clear that the community network model was a success.
In 2003, Fredericton took the next step. Using its fiber ring as a backbone, the city deployed almost 300 WiFi access points throughout downtown and the business corridor, in public facilities and retail malls. Rejecting the idea of hot-spots, Fredericton sought to blanket the area with overlapping coverage zones. It branded the result the Fred-eZone: an area covering 65% of the city in which access to broadband wireless is absolutely free. As Fredericton's Mayor Brad Woodside puts it, "We don't charge you to walk on our sidewalks. Why would we charge you for broadband?"
Fredericton's rich broadband offerings have created a growing culture of use for broadband and IT in daily life. The city Web site offers an online database of city services, and allows residents to register for recreation and meeting space online. Parents view school announcements and homework assignments over the Internet and can participate remotely in meetings of the school board. They access the FredKid.com online portal, created entirely by Fredericton families, to learn about programs and services available to support them. The Harvest Jazz and Blues festival, one of the largest music events in eastern Canada, attracts over 80,000 fans to Fredericton each year. It takes more than 800 volunteers to produce it, and they rely on a Web-based volunteer management system to make it happen. Fredericton is also home to the National Adult Literacy Database, a nonprofit that provides Internet-based literacy and core skills training to five million users a year.
The combination of smart strategy, hard-working private entrepeneurship and cooperative public investment in information and communications technology have completely transformed the economy of Fredericton over the past fifteen years. More than 70% of New Brunswick's knowledge industries call Fredericton home and, on a per capita basis, the city hosts the largest engineering cluster in North America. The population of Fredericton grew 14.5% since 1992 but the labor force grew 22% over the same period and average household income has jumped 13.5% since 2003. The community has added 12,200 new jobs in the past decade, and seen two of its companies win the nation's top innovation award.
And being a political capital still doesn't hurt. Fredericton's aerospace training cluster serves Canada's largest military training base, located near Fredericton. After a nationwide search, Canada's National Research Council Institute for Information Technology established the first headquarters facility outside Ottawa in Fredericton, where its e-business facility offers local companies access to cutting-edge skills from more than 50 researchers and technicians. Sixteen companies in its incubator have attracted more than C$25 million in venture capital. What distinguishes Fredericton is its success in streamlining government and stimulating a robust private sector without sacrificing the advantages that come with its political position.
In the News
Read the latest updates about Fredericton.
Labor Force: 31,135
Smart21 2006 | 2008 | 2009
Top7 2008 | 2009
In the life of a community, too much of a good thing can be as bad as too little. The city of Edmonton lies close to one of the largest oil deposits on Earth, which has created a foundation for prosperity but saddled the community with major challenges as well. The resource boom has swelled Edmonton into the youngest major city in Canada with the most diverse population. It has also created housing shortages, homelessness and a range of social ills. And when oil boom turns to oil bust, the challenges mount higher. To create a new economy on top of the oil-driven present, Edmonton has built the infrastructure of the new century and engaged its institutions in translating that infrastructure into a new source of prosperity.
Closing the Digital Divide
In Edmonton, as in many cities around the world, broadband speed and coverage were driven solely by telecommunications providers, leaving underserve pockets and creating a digital divide. To combat this issue, the city created the Open Access Initiative, which commits Edmonton to partner with providers through partnerships to spread broadband access throughout the city.
As of 2016, the city is working with Shaw to install Shaw Go WiFi service in city facilities and libraries for public use, with 37 facilities and 17 libraries already completed. Edmonton also provides wireless access points around the city for citizens to use free of charge as part of the Open City Wi-Fi service, with 83 access points currently installed. Fifteen of these access points have been installed on LRT platforms, including the entire Capital Line, to ensure that citizens have access to wireless networks.
Edmonton is also working to expand fiber-optic access by supporting TELUS in its $1 billion network expansion within the city. The first phase of the expansion was completed in 2015, making fiber connections available to more than 25,000 locations. TELUS also worked with the city and the Edmonton Eskimo Football Club to install equipment and infrastructure for publicly accessible WiFi at Commonwealth Stadium. Beyond the city’s cooperation with TELUS, Edmonton has partnered with Cybera (a not-for-profit technical agency) to build a fiber optic network utilizing space in the new LRT tunnels under the city.
Borrowing Books and Wi-Fi
While the city works to spread permanent broadband and Wi-Fi access to all of its citizens, the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) is loaning access to fill the gaps. The library began in July 2016 to loan portable Wi-Fi hotspots with unlimited data to adult library cardholders as part of a two-year pilot program. These 40 hotspots enable cardholders to access the Internet anywhere they take the device. “We know many Edmontonians don’t have home Internet access, and EPL is committed to providing people the skills and support they need to participate in the digital world,” said Pilar Martinez, EPL’s Chief Executive Officer. “This innovative program will provide a key tool for access to learning and information for those who need it most.” EPL cardholders logged nearly 1.4 million public Internet hours in 2015.
Preparing the Future Workforce
Another Edmonton institution, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), is training its future workforce. NAIT has created numerous programs designed to give students the skills most needed by regional employers, including classes to address climate change and to help the region make its cities smarter and its industry more efficient. These programs aim to diversify Alberta’s economy for the future and to assist urban and rural businesses in the region with distance learning. Starting in 2004, NAIT has commanded a fleet of mobile semi-tractor-trailer education units known as NIMs (NAIT in Motion) that bring state-of-the-art equipment directly to communities in need of training.
Edmonton is encouraging an energy transition among its residents and businesses to avoid the worst outcomes of global warming. To help with this transition, NAIT has invested heavily in its Alternative Energy Technology program, which provides training and research in energy technology such as solar, geothermal, wind, and biofuels. The program often partners with the city of Edmonton, including a venture in which NAIT and Edmonton jointly installed solar panels on the institute’s campus to test the effects of solar panel angle and snow cover on energy capture efficiency. The data collected by this project is streamed to Edmonton’s Open Data Catalogue, while the energy gathered by the panels is used onsite.
The Alternative Energy Technology program has met with great success over the past few years, with a 92% employment rate for graduates of its full time programs within nine months of leaving the school. NAIT also offers 13,800 apprenticeship seats and is one of the largest apprenticeship trainers in Canada with 33 distinct registered trades programs.
The EndPovertyEdmonton Strategy
While Edmonton has grown far more quickly in the new millennium than most Canadian cities, the most recent data from 2012 finds that one in eight residents live in poverty. To combat this, the city turned to the people themselves for recommendations and ideas. The EndPovertyEdmonton Strategy began in September 2014 with 200 Edmonton residents from diverse backgrounds and sectors divided into seven working groups to analyze poverty issues and develop recommendations for action. In autumn of 2015, EndPovertyEdmonton sought input from thousands of Edmontonians through in-person engagement sessions and an online survey to refine the recommendations from the Working Groups.
The EndPovertyEdmonton Strategy was unanimously approved by the Edmonton City Council in December 2015. Shortly after its approval, the organization developed an Implementation Road Map to provide specific direction for combating poverty over the next five years, including making all Edmontonians aware of the realities of poverty in the city and what steps they can take to help in the immediate future and in the long term. The EndPovertyEdmonton Strategy also partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association-Edmonton Region and BetaCityYeg (the region’s volunteer civic technology meetup) to create the LinkYEG web app. LinkYeg.ca provides real time information on nearby community resources, allowing users to search for available clothing and essentials, health and medical assistance, legal help, and family services.
No matter what price the world puts on a barrel of oil, Edmonton fears no bust. The city has built the infrastructure of the future and, as part of the process, tapped a more valuable resource than oil could ever be: its people.
Smart21 2008 | 2009 | 2015 | 2017
A successful technology cluster with ample broadband assets, Burlington seeks to remain a competitive place for businesses to grow. In consultation with citizens and businesses, local government is developing new clusters, creating education and training projects, e-government platforms, and subsidized broadband access programs.
Smart21 2006 | 2007
Free trade zone and regional business hub for information technology companies.
Despite an increase in output since 1999, oil reserves will be depleted by 2020. In anticipation of this, Doha, the national capitol, has committed nearly 3% of GDP to science and technology initiatives, including Education City, which are beginning to build a society driven by knowledge work.
The second largest city in Israel, Tel Aviv is also its richest, home to the nation’s stock exchange. Newsweek magazine called it one of the ten most technologically influential cities in the world, because of its concentration of venture capital, research institutes and technology firms. Other industries include chemical processing, textiles and food. By the end of 2000, the city contained 86% of Israel’s high-tech companies but is also a center for the creative industries and home to Tel Aviv University, the country’s largest academic institution. Fixed broadband passes 99% of homes and penetration is well above 60%. The Great Recession has hit Tel Aviv’s tech sector hard, particularly venture capitalists used to a 25% annual return, but pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and solar technologies continue to grow.
Using funds from development agencies and the US government, this war-torn capital of Afghanistan has built a telecom-based foundation for government by linking ministries with district offices and military bases throughout the country while expanding mobile service nationwide from 0.01% to 6% in three years.