The third-largest city in New York State, Rochester was one of America’s original boomtowns, first in the milling of flour and then as a major hub of manufacturing. The Rochester area has given birth to such famed companies as Eastman Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, Xerox and Western Union. Of the four, however, Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012, from which it emerged a year later a much smaller company, while the others relocated their headquarters to other US cities. As the city suffered from corporate downsizing and restructuring, the population fell by one-third from a 1950 high of 330,000 to 210,500 by 2010.
The local economy, however, retains pillars of strength. It is the home of the University of Rochester, the Rochester Institute of Technology and Monroe Community College. As large companies downsized, Rochester and the surrounding Monroe County have seen growth in small, high-tech firms, many of them leveraging the expertise in imaging and photographic technology that is the legacy of Kodak. This progress has not come by accident, but through growing collaboration among local government, educators and business, with support from state and national government.
Collaborating on Progress
The University of Rochester and its medical center are now the area’s largest employer, which attracted US$1.9bn in research grants between 2007 and 2012. That money has fueled local growth beyond the campus. As early as the 1990s, Rochester began building a network of private and nonprofit partnerships to diversify its economy. Organizations like High Tech Rochester and Greater Rochester Enterprise are helping create startups based on University of Rochester technologies.
A recent example of collaboration is the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, of which Rochester is a part. This has brought nearly US$9m in public-sector grants to the city, which are being invested in remediation of brownfield manufacturing sites, an Innovation Accelerator Foundation and a business accelerator launched by High Tech Rochester. Private investors are also active, having recently funded companies including university spin-outs such as Omnin-ID, Adarza Biosystems and Clerio Vision.
The city aims to leverage that success with investment in broadband. It is seeking state funding to kickstart deployment of a fiber-to-the-premise network while simultaneously researching the opportunity to use the existing city and county fiber as the backbone for a comprehensive network serving government, business and education. The Rochester School District recently won a US$47m grant to expand Wi-Fi to all of its public schools at a state-mandated speed of 100 Mb.
Training the Future Workforce
Beginning in 2015, the City of Rochester Department of Recreation and Youth Services has created two programs for training youth in future employment skills. The first, aimed at youth ages 14 to 20, is the Youth Employment Training program. The program teaches leadership, conflict resolution, team building and decision making skills, as well as providing resume consultation and development, interview skills development and job placement assistance. Graduates from the training program can then take their new skills to the second program, the Summer of Opportunity Program.
The Summer of Opportunity Program provides summer work experiences or vocational exploration opportunities for Rochester youth who are still in high school. The first part of the program is for younger students, ages 14 to 15, and provides them with summer career exploration and work training experiences at local private and non-profit companies. Youth trainees also receive 8 hours of life skills training, including financial literacy, professionalism, leadership and health education. After finishing this tier of the program, youth ages 16 to 20 can progress to the second tier, where they take “youth worker” positions in the public sector or with a local non-profit employer. These positions pay minimum wage and offer 20-35 hours per week of work for 7 to 8 weeks over the summer, allowing students to gain real work experience before moving on to post-secondary education or the workforce.
The legacy of manufacturing job losses, however, has left the city a sizable low-income population with poor prospects for participation in the digital global economy. Rochester has more people living at less than half the US Federal poverty level than any other American city of similar size. For that reason, many of the city’s programs target the creation of economic mobility for its poor citizens.
Operation Transform Rochester offers five programs geared toward education, vocation and employment. They target youngsters age 11 to 18 and offer training in basic career skills, leadership, self-development, and social and emotional health. Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) brings together secondary schools and community colleges to offer a six-year program in information technology that produces an associate degree as well as university credit, and qualifies graduates for entry-level IT jobs.
A program called Kiva Rochester provides small, no-interest, crowdfunded loans to help low-income entrepreneurs start local retail and service businesses. More important than the money is the process: Kiva’s borrowers are vetted by trustee organizations who publicly vouch for their creditworthiness. The city’s Focused Investment Strategy targets four highly distressed neighborhoods for property investment – places riddled with concentrated poverty, elevated rates of crime, tax and mortgage delinquency and distressed housing stock. The investment has gone into demolition, building code enforcement, building improvements, new construction and streetscape beautification. Public investment of US$17m triggered private-sector investment of $89m, which has created hundreds of homes while reducing crime and boosting neighborhood pride.
Determined to bring more of its citizens into the digital economy, Rochester is using the institutions it inherited from a proud industrial past to engineer a brighter future.
Smart21 2017 | 2019
(26 JANUARY 2017 – NEW YORK CITY) – Thought leaders from cities as diverse as New Westminster in British Columbia, Canada, Tallinn in Estonia and Binh Duong in Vietnam will be in Taipei, Taiwan on 9 February to hear who makes the list of the Intelligent Community Forum’s annual Top7 Intelligent Communities. The international awards program, now in its 18th year, begins with 400 candidates each year. Through the work of a team of international analysts, the list goes to 21 and then 7. In June, one of the Top7 will be named the world’s Intelligent Community of the Year in New York at the ICF Summit (June 6-8, www.icfsummit.com). Montreal, Quebec, Canada is the reigning Intelligent Community of the Year.Read more
A suburb of Toronto, this city of 94,000 on the shore of Lake Ontario is not your standard bedroom community. It is home to Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, an eight-reactor facility with a capacity of more than 4,000 megawatts. Around the plant has grown a cluster of energy technology firms, as well as companies specializing in audio and electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals and water purification and chemical recovery. The northern half of the municipality is largely rural and agricultural with a scattering of residential developments.
Filling in Broadband Gaps
Although most of Pickering has high broadband availability, 17% of residents still do not have access to any Internet services or cannot afford the few options available to them. To combat this problem, the city has adopted a series of policies and initiatives as part of the Connected Pickering brand. Pickering adopted at “Dig Once” policy in 2016 to mandate that all future road construction projects will including conduit building and a plan for connecting roads. In 2017, the city partnered with Distributel, a Toronto-based ISP, to fund the “Connect to Innovate” project, which will provide Pickering with a resilient broadband network that includes connecting 5 underserved rural hamlets. The project will also provide Pickering with 12 strands of fiber, allowing for ultra-highspeed Internet access in the city’s Innovation Corridor.
To fill in gaps of access and affordability, Pickering has also deployed 35 wireless hotspots at public facilities and waterfront parks and plans to deploy 10 more. The network is already connecting with 5,000 unique devices and supporting more than 20,000 sessions per month. Next on the city’s agenda is a community engagement program to gain input on where free Wi-Fi should be deployed in the future.
Equipping People for Broadband
Despite high broadband availability and adoption, Pickering has a skills gaps among residents with lower income and/or lower educational achievement. The community tackles the challenge through two programs. The Pickering Library system runs a free program for digital skills training that is available to all residents. It focuses on computer basics, common software applications and web browsing. With a library card, residents can also take part in online learning through partners including Lynda.com for software training, Gale Courses in business, and Mango Languages. Thousands of residents have taken courses, which have opened doors, changed lives and established new connections between residents.
PPL Connect, the second program, brings training directly to residents in need. Funded by a research grant, it works with partners that provide onsite and one-to-one training in such skills as submitting a resume online, using videoconferencing services and web search. For those without access technologies, the program loans laptops and portable Wi-Fi hotspots. PPL Connect gives priority to those with the lowest level of skills but also helps residents with solid technical skills to learn advanced topics from 3D printing to robotics.
Pickering’s third program is the iHelp Service, which provides one-on-one assistance with technology issues and questions in the Library or virtually. iHelp supplements training provided by the Pickering Library and PPL Connect by giving residents a support network to access for questions that may come up after their technology training, without requiring them to attend or request another full session. Since its creation, the iHelp Service has assisted over 17,000 clients each year on a variety of topics including setting up email accounts and creating online photobases for personal and business needs.
Sustainability is taken seriously in Pickering, where quality of life is vital to its economy. A program called Celebrating Sustainable Neighborhoods is a competition for neighborhood groups – schools, community groups, place of worship and businesses – to improve the place they live. A peer vote each year determines which neighborhood receives a grant of up to C$10,000 to further its work. Since the program’s launch in 2013, it has generated more than 350 community-building projects from community gardens and charity fundraisers to litter cleanups, tree planting, youth programs and waste and energy reduction.
One of Pickering’s newer sustainability projects is the Sustainable Seaton: Community-Building workshop series, established in 2016. The series, funded by the Seaton Landowners Group, provides builders, designers, architects and municipal staff with a variety of tools and knowledge from industry experts on sustainable building and design practices. The first workshop in 2016 focused on Net Zero Housing, while the second in 2017 focused on energy collection, storage and distribution. Each workshop has been well-received and attended by over 100 guests.
The same drive to improve life at the community level extends to all of the city. As Toronto’s economy expanded from 1996 to 2001, Pickering saw its population swell, resulting in the rapid conversion of farmland in the north to residential subdivisions. The city responded by slapping development restrictions on agriculture land. Forecasts, however, project the population of Pickering to more than double to 190,000 by 2031, creating enormous demand for housing. The community is engaging in negotiations with developers to better balance demand for development with the need to conserve rural quality of life.
While protecting its rural areas, Pickering has spent two years studying and conducting public consultation about a plan for urban intensification of its downtown. The plan seeks to manage growth, articulate placemaking opportunities and target investment rationally over the next 20 years. The resulting study, Downtown Pickering: A Vision for Intensification, provides computer modeling, policies and guidelines for land use, mobility, built form and capital projects.
Pickering has also focused on energy sustainability, completing an audit of the entire city’s streetlight infrastructure in 2016. Based on the audit’s findings, the city has begun upgrading its streetlights to LED, which is expected to save Pickering nearly $700,000 annually in energy and maintenance costs. As of late 2017, the streetlight replacement is 20% complete.
Population growth offers Pickering opportunities for greater prosperity in the future, but only if it can maintain a high quality of life for citizens and ensure that the benefits of growth are shared across the economy. The chance to fulfill those goals brought the city to adopt the framework of the Intelligent Community Forum to guide its development.
Smart21 2017 | 2018
The city of Nelson has a long history of booming growth, quick modernization, and community action. Founded on the discovery of silver in the nearby mountains, Nelson grew into a thriving transportation and distribution center for the region, expanding its economy into forestry and agriculture as well as mining. The city of just over 10,000 is found in the Selkirk Mountains near the southern border of British Columbia and is the regional seat of the Central Kootenay Regional District, despite making up only about one fifth of the region’s population. Nelson has struck a rare balance of modernization and preservation, updating many of its buildings with modern conveniences over the past half century, beginning with aluminum siding in the 1960s, while maintaining its historic downtown as a window into the past.
Local businesses and organizations can take advantage of Nelson’s dark fiber network, Nelson Fibre, which has been in operation since 2005. Nelson Fibre is a growing utility with over 50 fiber strands currently deployed to local businesses, theaters, schools, colleges, municipal departments, and downtown work spaces. The city also has its own local wireless company, Columbia Wireless, which was one of Nelson Fibre’s original service providers alongside DHC Communication Inc., Sensible Solutions Inc. and the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation. To raise awareness of the network, The Nelson Fibre Sales and Marketing Plan issues editorials and press releases to educate key organizations about the benefits of broadband fiber and also about installation and deployment. Columbia Wireless also educates local customers about their Internet connectivity options and provides a variety of wireless packages.
Nelson serves as a general broadband advocate via the Broadband Communication project, educating its citizens and local businesses in the value of high speed Internet access for students and organizations and in the many broadband options available to them. The city publishes articles on the solutions broadband provides to a host of technical and often mission-critical business applications. Thanks to the project, the average business in Nelson knows of the many service providers available in the area, including Telus and Shaw, which provide a wide range of asymmetrical high-speed services even in surrounding rural areas.
Founded in 2010 by Brad Pommen, the Nelson Tech Club (NTC) “Hackerspace” offers weekly technology programs for local youth ages 10-16. The club provides mentors, tools and resources—using a social learning framework based on STEM initiatives—for up to 50 participants each week. NTC provides its tools and resources to the community at low or sometimes no cost to increase technology adoption and train local youth in technical skills for future careers. The club also coordinates with the RoboGames youth robotics competition for the Kootenay region. Since its founding, the NTC Hackerspace has grown into Canada’s largest all-ages, public Hackerspace with over 400 registered members in 2016.
In addition to broadband services and education, Nelson has also developed programs to help local business and innovators get off the ground. Selkirk-SME Applied Research and Technology Solutions (SMARTS) is a program developed with Selkirk College to accelerate local small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The SMARTS program helps SMEs develop project plans and secure funding proposals, and also provides access to research support from Selkirk College faculty and students working in the areas of geospatial and digital fabrication technologies. Since its creation, the program has aided 38 SMEs and provided 25 other SMEs with references to other organizations when they did not qualify for the program. Six full projects have been completed with SMARTS consultation with five more currently in development.
Library Access Fills Broadband Gaps
Even with the wide range of broadband services available in Nelson, not all citizens have high-speed Internet access. The Nelson Public Library offers access to computers and high-speed WiFi service, as well as one-to-one training and small group sessions in technology usage. The city provides the public library with 10MB fiberoptic WiFi service for this purpose.
Path to 2040 Sustainability Plan
Nelson has adapted well to change throughout its history, and to continue this legacy, the city has developed the Path to 2040 Sustainability Plan. As part of this and related plans, the Nelson City Council set aggressive corporate GHG emission targets, resulting in a 25% reduction in corporate emissions to date and making Nelson one of fewer than 10 Canadian municipalities to achieve the highest reduction levels in the Partners for Climate Protection Program. The city has also launched a home energy retrofit program to finance retrofits and a Solar Farm project that has nearly sold out with no subsidies offered.
Nelson has always looked within for its strength, from building its own hydroelectric generating system in the early 1900s to the Nelson Fibre network of today. By educating and providing its people with high-speed broadband access and facilitating local innovation, the city has laid a path toward a future as booming as its past.
Founded upon the discovery of gold in the region in the mid-1800s, New Westminster was originally meant to be “a second England on the shores of the Pacific.” The city served as the capital of the colony of British Columbia but was eventually replaced by Victoria when the two colonies united to form Canada’s sixth province. New Westminster has been an important economic and transportation center in western Canada for over a century with a wide mix of industrial sectors that have allowed it to weather economic changes and hardships alike.
Bringing Fiber to New Westminster with BridgeNet
BridgeNet is New Westminster’s city-owned open access fiber network, officially launched in June 2016. The first phase of the fiber network project was completed in September, enabling four new Internet service providers to provide 1 gigabit high-speed service to key areas of the city. The city itself serves as the neutral and independent open access provider. This allows New Westminster to offer standard and transparent pricing to ISPs on the network, thereby increasing consumer choices and stimulating broadband service competition. As part of BridgeNet, New Westminster is collaborating with telecommunications providers, Internet service providers and value-added service vendors to bring more connectivity options throughout the city. The city has also signed an agreement with BC-Net, a not-for-profit shared information technology services organization in British Columbia, to bring fiber connectivity to Douglas College, Justice Institute of British Columbia and the Royal Columbia Hospital.
The Training Group
Douglas College in New Westminster has taken a leading role in preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs with the Training Group: Self Employment Services (SEP). The Training Group delivers customized labor market training and programs for government, business other community groups, including business planning, classroom, training, professional mentoring services and general group support for budding entrepreneurs. The SEP team consists of business consultants and instructors with experience in launching and running their own successful businesses. The Training Group’s combination of real-world business skills and entrepreneurial training has been wildly successful with 95% of participants launching their own businesses after the program and 72% of those remaining in business for at least four years afterward.
The IDEA Centre
New Westminster’s Innovation, Discovery, Education, and Advancement (IDEA) Centre is a collaboration among many institutions, both in the public and private sector, to support medical research and development, business and personal services, offices and advanced education facilities. The project was begun in 2015 in conjunction with the redevelopment of the Royal Columbian Hospital, as a way to expand economic activity in the surrounding Sapperton District. The IDEA Centre’s many collaborators hope to create an environment for advanced education and research in the district, including establishing Centers of Excellence such as a proposed mental health center and medical training facilities such as a simulator lab. The IDEA Centre was designed as an economic development strategy with input from the mayor’s Task Force on the Economic Health Care Cluster.
To facilitate the development of this new health care center, the BridgeNet fiber optic network is being extended to the area around the hospital and to Simon Fraser University Harbour Centre. The city has created joint fiber optic infrastructure plans with the Fraser Health Authority (FHA) to assist with the redevelopment of the RCH campus and the FHA’s regional communications and data center. In addition, New Westminster has developed a neighborhood district system powered by clean, renewable energy for the Sapperton District and, as of 2017, is in the process of redeveloping Sapperton Park, including the local playground and sports field.
Fostering Digital Literacy and Inclusion
The New Westminster Public Library launched a program in the fall of 2011 to address literacy gaps in citizens’ use of library computers. Under the program, library patrons can book appointments with library staff to get individual training that meets their specific needs, working either with the library computers or the patrons’ own devices. To further improve the program, the New Westminster Public Library conducted a study of patrons’ computer use in 2014, which lead to the introduction of Sunday morning computer tutorials for seniors. Local high school students volunteer as instructor aids for these classes and receive training and a certificate that they can use as work experience credit for college.
In addition to digital instruction, the New Westminster Public Library has also expanded its collections to include a wide variety of digital resources. The library began providing e-books through its membership in the BC Libraries Coop in 2010 and added e-magazines and e-newspapers in 2012. To help support its e-collections, the New Westminster Public Library offers e-readers preloaded with a collection of e-books for patrons to borrow and has also created a “Tech Bar” to showcase Android and Apple tablets for patrons’ use.
Continuing its history of economic diversity and growth in the face of hardship, New Westminster is bringing the future to its corner of British Columbia via high-speed Internet access and an educated public ready to put its resources to the best use for innovation.
The capital city of Russia, Moscow produces more than 20% of that nation’s GDP and, with over 12 million people, is the largest city on the European continent. It is also a city that has taken enormous strides to build a collaborative, knowledge-based economy in a nation better known for top-down leadership, where 80% of exports are of oil, natural gas and other natural resources.
City of Technology Parks
Moscow has 26 technology parks and technopolises spread across all its districts, which support more than 1,300 high-tech companies. Plans call for more than doubling the number to 60 by the end of 2017. They specialize in microelectronics, optoelectronics, photonics, medical tech, pharmaceuticals, analytical and monitoring equipment, robotics, telecom and energy. City government seeded the first set of tech parks with public funds but the primary source of investment today is private-sector.
In addition to providing facilities, technology transfer, incubation and acceleration services, the tech parks develop human capital for Moscow. Leading universities, research institutions and businesses have implemented training programs extending from young children to graduate students, and opened 46 youth creativity centers serving 20,000 attendees.
Integrated Educational System
The tech parks represent the top rung of a ladder of educational opportunity running through the public school system. The Moscow Department of Education collaborates with universities, colleges, research institutions and cultural organizations to offer specialized courses beginning in primary school. More than 150 Moscow schools offer profession-oriented medical and engineering classes across the grade levels. Universities develop the programs and train teachers to deliver them, while companies and medical institutions hold hands-on workshops where students learn occupational skills.
For high school students, the same team creates pre-university classes offering a higher level of training in engineering and medical subjects as well as design and research. By the end of the 2016-17 school year, 96% of Moscow schools will have implemented at least 3 profession-oriented programs.
Number 2 for Wi-Fi Hotspots in the World
In 2015, Moscow was second only to Seoul, South Korea in the number of free public Wi-Fi hotspots, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers. A joint project of city government and private investors, the network includes 30,000 hotspots across the metro system, public spaces, student hostels, and bus and trolley stops. Every day, 2.5 million passengers connect to the network on the metro and 85,000 unique users go online in public spaces. All Moscow schools have broadband access, and more than 1 million Muscovites access school services online.
Mass broadband access has underpinned the success of Moscow’s large-scale investment in an e-government platform (www.mos.ru). In 2015, 5.4 million Muscovites used the platform and made 12.8 million requests for city services each month by computer or smartphone. An electronic document management system covers the entire city government and is used by 58,000 users. A unified health management system allows patients to make appointments and communicate with medical staff, while providing clinics and hospitals with a single platform for data management. The system serves more than 7.7 million patients annually.
Collective Decision-Making, Reduced Congestion
One of the city’s proudest digital achievements is the VMESTE! System. It is an online platform that lets citizens make suggestions and propose solutions to problems, then conducts online votes to select the most promising ideas for implementation. Finally, it collects complaints about troubles with municipal services, which generate action and a public report.
In one example, VMESTE! launched an online discussion about issues with Moscow’s healthcare sector, and 60,000 Muscovites proposed more than 27,000 ideas, from medication e-vouchers to doctor appointments via smartphone. The online vote led to the selection of 150 citizen-proposed measures for implementation. They resulted in more convenient clinic schedules, an online appointment system, improved standards for service, an online platform for patient evaluation of the services received, and implementation of a medical information system to cut paperwork and better manage visitor flows. Patient evaluations of healthcare sector now rate 86% of appointments as satisfactory, and the innovations are on their way to saving the city more up to US$40 million per year.
Moscow is famed for its traffic congestion, with overloaded roads and many kilometers of traffic jams. In addition to its effects on quality of life and productivity, traffic congestion represents an environmental hazard. Moscow’s solution was the opening of the Moscow Central Circle, a ground-level rail line that circles the city. The system opened 31 stations in September 2016 and began running 200 passenger trains along the 54 km route. Careful planning went into changing the routes and schedules of buses and trolleys to coordinate with the Central Circle trains, and launching a single ticketing system for the entire network. In the first week of operation, more than one million people became passengers and the load on the metro system was noticeably reduced. Just as important, the Central Circle line is already revitalizing old industrial zones on the periphery of the city and attracting new investment in residential areas, tech parks, shopping and office centers, which are expected to create over 40,000 jobs.
The administration of Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has invested large amounts of money and political capital in a vision for Moscow as an attractive location for knowledge-based businesses, a center for learning and a city where government exists to serve the people as efficiently and transparently as possible. Deploying digital technologies to serve those ends, Moscow is turning one of the world’s megacities into an Intelligent Community.
Smart21 2017 | 2019
Sarnia is the largest city in Lambton County, which extends from the shores of Lake Huron in the north to the Lake St. Clair in the south. Nearly 60% of the county’s population is concentrated there, with the remaining 40% distributed across 2,800 square kilometers (695 sq mi) of the rest of the county. The sparsely populated county was, however, the site of North America’s first commercially drilled oil well. Petrochemical and refining industries are still its largest manufacturing and employment sector, and Sarnia-Lambton considers itself the center of the Great Lakes Industrial Corridor. The other mainstays of the economy are agriculture and tourism.
With this successful industrial base, Sarnia-Lambton focuses its development efforts on connecting the excluded to economic opportunity and spurring the innovation that can keep its industry strong.
The rural areas of the region have benefited from the long commitment of rural telecom operators, Brooke Telecom and Hay Communications, to their markets. Both companies continuously expand their fiber networks into rural residential markets. Brook Telecom is offering a 1 Gbps connection with unlimited usage for C$109.95 to villages of fewer than 1,500 residents as well as rural farms. Business customers in the Sarnia metro area are benefiting from a 2015 decision by BlueWater Power, a local power distribution company, to launch a fiber network division.
In July 2016, the provincial and federal governments announced initial funding for a plan to build an ultra-high-speed network serving 300 mainly rural communities in southwestern Ontario. The South-Western Integrated Fiber Technology (SWIFT) program will take 25 years to complete at a cost of C$5 billion. Lambton County has been an active driver of the program and has budgeted C$1 million as a contribution toward construction costs in its territory.
STEM Education for First Nations Youth
Lambton County is home to three First Nation communities, each with a fast-growing youth population. Two nonprofits have targeted middle-school children in these communities for science, technology, engineering and math education in partnership with the University of Waterloo. The partners present classroom workshops during the school year and operate a STEM day camp during the summer. For the past 10 years, about 75 university students have served as instructors, while members and elders of the First Nations serve as counselors, who integrate cultural experiences into the STEM teaching.
The library system of the county is bringing STEM practices of a different sort to its patrons with the opening of a Makerspace, equipped with laser cutter, vinyl cutter, 3D printer, book binder and a variety of robots for patrons to experiment with. A group of creative industry entrepreneurs have formed Makers Artists, Designers and Entrepreneurs (MADE) Lambton to help turn the interest engendered by the Makerspace into careers.
The county’s newest youth education project is the Sarnia-Lambton Youth Skills Connection program, established in 2016. YSC was launched by Lambton College in partnership with the County of Lambton, the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, the Sarnia-Lambton Industrial Alliance, the Ontario provincial government and over 20 local companies. The program provides training for youth aged 15 to 29 years, focusing on topics such as advanced manufacturing and 3D printing, web and app development, enterprise project management, business development, marketing and sales and advanced tools for crop harvesting and bio-process operations. Once youth clients have completed their training, YSC connects its graduates with industry and private companies for internships and pays for the first two months of every internship itself. Since its founding, the program has served over 150 participants and engaged more than 30 industry partners.
Innovating on an Agricultural Foundation
Sarnia-Lambton is home to the federally-funded Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, and the public-private Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, a joint venture among the county, the city and Western University. Each seeks to build on the region’s combined base of petrochemical, chemical and agriculture industries.
The latest project in this area is the Cellulosic Sugar Producers Cooperative. Farmers in the Cooperative have worked with federal and provincial agencies, Western University and private-sector companies to research opportunities and develop a business plan for converting agricultural waste into cellulosic sugars. There is a ready market for these sugars in making multiple products. In 2016, the Cooperative announced that it would partner with Comet Biorefining to build a commercial-scale plant at the TransAlta Energy Park in Sarnia-Lambton. Expected to begin operation in 2018, the plant will produce 27 million kilograms of destrose sugar syrup per year from corn stalks and wheat straw, and the Cooperative has signed agreements with a buyer to use the product in producing personal care products, plasticizers and polymers.
Building a Sustainable Energy Future
Alongside agricultural innovation, Sarnia-Lambton is focusing on renewable energy sources with the goal of eventually moving away from fossil-fuel-based feedstock. The county launched two initiatives to further this goal: the Sarnia-Lambton Bio-Hybrid & Chemistry Cluster and the Sarnia-Lambton Sustainable Energy Cluster. The Bio-Hybrid & Chemistry Cluster has attracted a number of bio-hybrid chemical companies to begin developing and testing their technologies in the county, leveraging Sarnia-Lambton’s prosperous soybean, wheat and sugar beet farms as ideal sources of crop and bio-mass raw materials for new bio-chemical technologies. The cluster has also worked with Lambton’s increasingly digital farming sector to supplant crude oil and petrochemical feedstocks. To provide state-of-the-art facilities for research in the area, Lambton College established a Center of Excellence in Energy & Bio-Industrial Technologies in 2015 and added a $12m expansion to those facilities in 2016.
In the Sustainable Energy Cluster’s first major success, Sarnia-Lambton became home to one of the largest solar projects in North America, the Enbridge/First Solar 80 MW solar farm in 2014. The county has also attracted two large wind energy projects: Suncor Energy’s Cedar Point Wind Power Project and NextEra Energy’s Jericho Energy Centre, which are currently in development. To further facilitate energy research, the county established the Lambton Energy Research Centre in 2016 as part of Lambton College’s Applied Research & Innovation umbrella. LERC is an R&D center that supports energy-focused SMEs with their technology development, validation and commercialization.
Reaching down to excluded communities and up to new technology applications for its heritage industries, Sarnia-Lambton is building an economy that serves not just its industrial center but the dispersed population of its rural areas through the power of broadband.
Smart21 2017 | 2018 | 2019
Bristol is the largest city in the southwest of England, with a population of about a half million. It has a modern economy built on the creative media, electronics and aerospace industries, and its city-center docks have been redeveloped as centers of heritage and culture.
Yet even such vibrant midsize cities have pockets of deprivation, where poverty, poor education and the social ills that go with them are handed down from one generation to the next. For Bristol, that pocket is the neighborhood of Knowle West. The closure of a major factory in the Nineties caused large-scale job losses and a third of residents today are classified as economically inactive.
Investing in a Better Future
To give the 12,000 residents of Knowle West a chance at a better future, Bristol’s Council has invested in digital-age programs that aim to transform life at the individual, family and community levels. Basic infrastructure is part of the mix. Bristol has developed the Filwood Green Business Park in Knowle West, which provides 76 units of “green” office and workshop space for small to midsized businesses, as well as shared office space for solo workers. It has expanded bus routes to better connect the neighborhood with the rest of Bristol, after surveys found that most residents needed to own a car to get to work.
As is typical of low-income areas, Knowle West is underserved with broadband, and carriers force local businesses to pay the capital cost of running high-speed lines to their premises. Bristol tapped a UK government program called the Connection Voucher Scheme to cover the cost for 1,500 local businesses, which has generated more than £2 million of digital infrastructure investment.
Training for Bristol’s Creative Economy
Digital investment of another kind has created the Knowle West Media Centre, where residents receive free skills development programs including digital manufacturing and business basics. A work-study program trains residents while having them work on social action projects that gives them work experience. After-school groups for children and young people teach digital literacy and creative skills, and supply leadership coaching for 18-25 year olds.
In the Junior Digital Producer program, young people who have been unemployed learn in-demand industry skills while delivering a community-based project. The Media Centre also has its own creative agency, Eight, where budding freelancers undertake paid commissions with the support of more experienced creatives. In its most recent year, users of the Media Centre produced nearly 500 pieces of furniture for the Filwood Green Business Park and created 8 businesses and community enterprises. Nearly 90% of participants in the Junior Digital Producer program go into paid work or self-employment.
The Bristol Approach
The Media Centre has also played a central role in social innovation. Beginning in 2016, it organized an effort by artists and designers in Bristol to help residents across the city identify issues they were passionate about tackling, a process that has been named “The Bristol Approach.” These ranged from damp problems in homes to the difficulty shopkeepers had in identifying customer flows. The organizers assembled diverse groups of residents, artists, technologists, makers and activities to explore the issues and pursue solutions. The “Dampbusters” group, for example, investigated the use of sensors in homes to gather relevant data and use it to gain local and national attention to the problem.
The Media Centre was also the channel for a European Union-funded project that led to creation of My Knowle West, a smartphone app that provides an online space for sharing stories, tips, images and inspiration, while increasing the confidence of users in smartphone and tablet technology.
In 2016, the Bristol Post newspaper reported that Knowle West was “the loneliest area of Bristol.” Surveys indicated that only 39% of the people of the neighborhood thought that people of different backgrounds could get along, compared with 61% city-wide. Attacking that social isolation – and the accompanying deprivations in health, education, income and employment – is Knowle West Together. It is a multi-agency group dedicated to improving quality of life in the neighborhood. Members include residents, charities, schools and social agencies. Since 2013, the group has organized community festivals that reached over 1,000 people, educated them on the social services available to them, and reinvigorated Knowle West’s primary retail center, Filwood Broadway.
The problems of neighborhoods like Knowle West are common everywhere, and the challenge to municipal leaders the same on every continent. Step by step, Bristol is changing the lives of the people of this neighborhood and offering them hope of integration into the growth economy of the 21st Century.
Keelung City borders New Taipei City on the south and the Pacific Ocean on the north. Once the 7th largest container port in the world, the city gradually lost its position due to the lack of land for expansion, rising foreign competition and the decline of the domestic coal industry, which peaked in 1968. But Keelung’s seafaring days were not behind it, thanks to the growth the passenger cruise industry. Today, 89% of inbound cruise ships dock at the Port of Keelung, bringing 690,000 passengers to Taiwan, who generate more than NTD 6 billion in revenue. The city’s future depends on how those passengers experience what locals call the Rainy Port.
Residents of Keelung City enjoy fixed broadband at 100 Mbps, reaching 90% of households. To support its tourist industry, it has established a gigabit free public Wi-Fi system in the Port of Keelung, offering users up and downloads at 30 Mbps through 1,100 hotspots. Riding on that network is the Seamless Travel Service, which provides a combined e-ticket to popular destinations, travel information and real-time schedules for the city’s extensive transit system as well as discounts at local stores and a mobile payment solution. A network of digital interactive billboards at tourist hotspots promote local attractions and let tourists search for more information. The result is what Keelong calls “the Smiling Port.”
Keelung also collaborates intensively with local businesses and universities to upgrade access to the cultural offerings of the city. It established a Creative Center, which offers an exhibition and conference center, hotel and restaurant.
More than a real estate project, the Center hosted its first design competition in 2016 to promote local cultural and creative products, and to introduce high school and university students to local companies. It holds frequent workshops with citizens and community groups to develop and test ideas for further revitalizing the city. One such project focuses on creating “small yet beautiful spaces” in neighborhoods that felt into disrepair during the previous period of economic decline. In 2014, thirteen renovation projects were proposed and completed.
Making Education Smarter
Keelung’s future as a tourist destination and creative city depend on a highly educated workforce. It has invested in a robust broadband infrastructure for its network of 60 schools, reaching 4 Gbps in 2015 on its way to 10 Gbps in the future. On this platform, it introduced a one-to-one tablet program for students and a “happy student card,” which generates data on learning outcomes and extracurricular activities not just within the school building but at local sports centers, public libraries and museums. The city and the National Taiwan University of Science established a 3D School for Makers, where students learn creative thinking and hands-on technical skills using the latest 3D printing and manufacturing technologies. The city’s goal is to establish a classroom for makers in every school.
Fighting Shipborne Pollution
Major ports around the world struggle to manage the air pollution produced by the massive diesel engines of cargo and passenger ships. The Port of Keelung established a coastal power system for docked ships that reduced polluting gases and particles by 96%. But sustainability is not just a business process in Keelung. The city has committed itself to low-carbon office operations and energy conservation across its facilities and transit system. That transit system itself drives sustainability by providing an attractive alternative to vehicles. Keelung City has the fifth lowest ownership of cars and motorcycles per capita in Taiwan.
Neighborhoods in the city compete for honors in carbon reduction and sustainability contests, and are honored for innovative sustainability projects. These range from the conversion of streetlights to LED and recycling programs to resident education and the renovation of abandoned telephone booths into rainwater installation art.
River Corridor Project
Keelung has much greater ambitions for the future. It signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Taichung, our 2013 Intelligent Community of the Year, to collaborate on smart city projects. Three regions in the city have been identified for development of an Array of Things to monitor environmental conditions. The city has established a smart healthcare platform for managing individual cases across multiple healthcare institutions. A major plan calls for redeveloping a stagnant warehouse district as the Keelung River Corridor, home to such emerging industries as marine biotechnology and residential neighborhoods. Under Mayor Lin Yu-chang, Keelung City is working hard to leverage its maritime past while creating vast new possibilities for the future.
Smart21 2017 | 2019
The County of Grey is a rich cultural center of Ontario with a long history of agriculture and bustling water trade. Located in "cottage country" with a population of 92,0000, the county is home to the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival and the Festival of Northern Lights, and the county seat of Owen Sound was even named the 2004 Cultural Capital of Canada. Like many rural areas, however, Grey County now struggles to hold onto its agricultural heritage and strength in an increasingly digital world.
The SWIFT Initiative
In a rural county with some community densities as low as four people per km2, broadband access is always a challenge. Grey County is one of the 15 counties in southwestern Ontario that make up the Western Ontario Wardens' Caucus, which has developed the SWIFT Initiative to address major gaps in broadband coverage and lack of fiber-optic connectivity. The SWIFT Initiative began in May 2011 as a discussion about the importance of broadband to the Southwestern Ontario economy and about what regional leaders could do to address the lack of modern Internet infrastructure throughout rural Ontario. The initiative is intended to direct funding from municipal, provincial and federal governments to address gaps in broadband infrastructure and to support increased market participation of local industries and businesses in the digital economy. Five years later, the governments of Canada and Ontario announced $180 million in combined funding for the initiative. This funding will also trigger more private investments from ISPs.
The Launch Pad
The Launch Pad Youth Activity and Technology Centre (Launch Pad YATC) in Grey County is a skills building center for youths aged 12 to 18 that first opened its doors in 2015. The center was created for Grey and Bruce County youth as a learning environment with access to technology, skill training in trades valuable to the local economy, as well as arts and recreation outside normal school hours. Since opening its doors, Launch Pad has gained 250 members and has become a popular regional success story. Demand continues to grow for its services, prompting a $200,000 renovation currently in progress that will convert part of the space into a regional trades and training facility to prepare the future workforce.
As Launch Pad’s success grows, economic developers, educators and community developers across the region are now looking to learn how its model can be replicated in other communities in the county and across rural Ontario. The center has received multiple awards since its founding, including a 2016 Ontario Economic Development Award from the Economic Developers Council of Ontario. Launch Pad YATC was also selected as the 2016 Municipal Information Systems Association (MISA) Ontario Conference Charity.
Uniting Past and Future with Digital Agriculture
Agriculture and the food industry are Grey County’s largest employers and contributors to the local GDP. As in many rural communities, however, the county’s producers are facing many challenges, from competition from lower-priced imports to ever-increasing land values. The Ag 4.0 initiative is Grey County’s answer: a project aimed at connecting agricultural producers with local technical and creative professionals to promote collaboration and innovation. The initiative also seeks to support the development of a generation of rural innovators among local youth, hoping to apply their skills as “digital natives” to the requirements of “digital agriculture.”
The Ag 4.0 initiative has sparked new working relationships - and renewed old ones - with many key stakeholders and champions of the issue, including the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Georgian College, the University of Guelph, Grey—Ag Services, and Grey County’s member municipalities. To formalize these collaborations, Grey County hosted its first Ag 4.0 Summit and Innovation Tour in November 2016, providing opportunities for producers to learn from agricultural innovators and connect with professionals from other related creative and technological fields.
Solving Rural Transportation with MOVIN’GB
Travel in Grey County is nearly impossible without a personal vehicle, with many areas offering little to no reliable public transportation. In April 2016, the county along with Home & Community Support Services launched the first phase of the MOVIN’GB pilot program. MOVIN’GB is a transportation program, a support service that provides rides to non-emergency medical appointments, shopping, banking, and various social activities and programs. The program aims to help seniors and those with disabilities find affordable transit in the Grey County municipalities of Owen Sound, Meaford, Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands. The MOVIN’GB pilot project helps both to decrease per-ride costs for passengers and to increase profitability for service providers, not to mention beginning to address the climate impacts of a transportation system based solely on private vehicles. If it proves successful, Grey County plans to expand the program’s service area to include other parts of Grey and Bruce Counties and also its eligibility to include youths and people without access to affordable transportation.
The future looks bright in Grey County as farmers step into the digital world with the help of their technically-skilled neighbors and local youths train to become the next generation of innovators.