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.
Smart21 2020 | 2021
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
Whanganui has been declared one of the global communities "most ready for the 21st century".
Once again, Whanganui has been named a Smart21 Community by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), a New York-based think tank which helps communities adapt to a digital economy.Read more
Adelaide has again been named one of the world’s top smart cities, winning a spot in the Intelligent Community Forum’s (ICF) ‘Smart21’.
The announcement, made on 22 October, comes as part of the ICF’s 2020 Intelligent Community of the Year Awards Program, which recognises communities that demonstrate best practices in broadband implementation, workforce development, digital inclusion, innovation, advocacy and sustainability.Read more
10 Nations including Estonia and New Zealand Represented on List
22 October, 2019 – New York City, NY and Rochester, NY (USA) – In a ceremony from the Arbor at the Port in Rochester, New York and a simultaneous global announcement online from its New York City headquarters, the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) today named the world’s Smart21 Communities of 2020.
Selection of this group of regions, cities and towns begins the think tank’s annual eight-month process which will conclude when ICF names the 2020 Intelligent Community of the Year in June 2020 at the ICF Summit. These semi-finalists for the New York-based ICF’s international award are global communities deemed most ready for the 21st century. Each has applied the six principles of ICF’s Method to begin to build local economic expansion and prosperity, social health and cultural richness. The ICF believes that these factors together make a community strong and resilient. Each community chose to make the journey from Smart City to Intelligent Community and many have been working on their programs for several years.Read more
The price of freedom in any culture, society or community ultimately comes down to the cost of people being able to make the right choice for themselves and for future generations.
A Supreme Court justice once said that, while the USA’s Constitution was inspired, it did not come with a guarantee that people and places would automatically prosper. It ensured that the people, of whom the government was for, would be protected to make any choice they sought best.
“If people want to go to Hell, I will help them,” he added. “It’s my job.”
At ICF we turned that phrase around by declaring that, “If places want to prosper and get on the path to prosperity and stability, we will show them a method for doing it.”
But it can be Hell to get there.Read more
Peter A. Baynes is Executive Director of the New York StateConference of Mayors and Municipal Officials (NYCOM), the membership association representing New York’s city and village governments. NYCOM has been in existence since 1910.
Mr. Baynes has been employed by NYCOM since 1985, having previously served as Legislative Analyst, Director of Intergovernmental Finance, and Deputy Director. He received a B.A.in History from Siena College and has taken Masters-level courses inHistory and Public Policy from the State University of New York at Albany.Read more
ICF Opens Nominations for Intelligent Community Awards, Begins Search For the 2020 Intelligent Community of the Year
Year-Long Awards to culminate in June at the ICF Summit in Dublin, Ohio, USA
(July 11, 2019 – New York City) – The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) is calling for nominations for the 2020 cycle of its prestigious Intelligent Community of the Year Awards Program.
The annual Awards Program, which is run by the New York-based think-tank, will name its 22nd Intelligent Community of the Year at the 2020 ICF Summit in June 2020 in Dublin, Ohio, USA. The 2019 recipient Taoyuan, Taiwan, was named in New York in June.Read more