Smart Cities

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Integral Strategy Network is working in many ways with communities who want to collaborate at a higher level to improve quality of life and opportunity. Some of these initiatives address immediate social, economic and environmental challenges. Others are more focused on the future.

Some of the communities we work with – like Brandon, Manitoba – have set out to create a more prosperous future by pursuing major opportunities for economic development and investment attraction. Others, like the city of Lethbridge and Parkland County in Alberta, are looking to capitalize on emerging technologies to take advantage of the growing digital economy and digital society. Lethbridge and Parkland County have been recognized nationally and internationally for their efforts.

Lethbridge: An Intelligent Community

Lethbridge was chosen by the Intelligent Community Forum in October 2015 as one of the Top 21 Intelligent Communities in the world. The Forum – headquartered in New York City – considers nominations from nearly 400 communities every year. It selects intelligent community finalists based on six indicators, including Broadband Connectivity, Knowledge Workforce, Digital Inclusion, Innovation, Marketing & Advocacy, and Sustainability. In 2015, nominations were also evaluated based on the ability of a community to plan for a future of economic, technological, and environmental disruption.

Integral Strategy Network was engaged by Lethbridge, Alberta, to help mobilize stakeholders in mid-2015, to develop the vision and plan for its Intelligent Community future. Representatives of every sector participated, including the city’s economic development organization; municipal government; business, industry and agriculture; the university and the college; two school boards; the library and the museum; youth organizations; community groups; and non-government organizations.

Facilitated by ISN, these stakeholders worked together to create an Integral Strategy Roadmap that described their shared intentions to create an Intelligent Community and how they will be achieved – including the shared goal, supporting outcomes, and required actions. The goal they articulated is to be “a vibrant and thriving community that offers opportunity and a high quality of life for people in the city and the region.” This will be achieved, they said, by becoming a place that “leverages communications infrastructure to be highly connected, informed, engaged, inclusive, creative and entrepreneurial.”

Becoming an Intelligent Community is a collective effort. Collaboration is critical. Doug Hawkins, director of infrastructure services in Lethbridge described the benefits of the Roadmap approach. “It was unique. It made perfect sense … probably the best tool to help us get to where we wanted to go and to get off on the right foot. We want a strategy that ultimately the community owns.” Trevor Lewington, CEO of Economic Development Lethbridge, described the value of the process in creating stakeholder commitment. “We continue to have tremendous engagement from a broad range of partners and stakeholders.”

Parkland County: A Smart Region

Parkland County launched its Smart City program in 2009. It has since invested more than $7.9 million in infrastructure. It has also delivered more than 100 Smart City programs and events. Parkland was named one of the Top 21 Intelligent Communities by the Intelligent Communities Forum in 2014 and 2018.

Integral Strategy Network was engaged by Parkland County, Alberta, to help develop its submission for the Canadian Smart City Challenge, sponsored by Infrastructure Canada. The national competition focused on challenges in Empowerment & Inclusion, Economic Development, Environmental Quality, Healthy Living & Recreation, Mobility, and Safety & Security.

Parkland County has been selected as one of twenty national finalists out of 130 eligible applications. It will now receive a $250,000 grant to develop its final proposal. The federal government plans to announce four winners in the spring of 2019 – awarding one prize of up to $50 million, two prizes of up to $10 million (for medium-sized cities with a population of less than 500,000), and one prize of up to $5 million (for a small city with a population of less than 30,000).

Parkland County partnered with neighboring Brazeau, Lac Ste. Anne and Yellowhead counties to compete for a $10 million prize. The four counties have a combined population of 62,000. Public consultation helped to shape their challenge statement. “Our agricultural community will revitalize and grow through the connection of people to the land and food while attracting citizens to share in its prosperous, innovative and resilient way of life.”

Parkland says becoming a smart region will have numerous benefits – using reliable and cost-effective connectivity to improve access to markets, increase productivity, and create a more prosperous agricultural economy. It will help to enhance rural safety and security, and will provide tools to improve environmental sustainability. It will also be a catalyst for rural innovation. The authors of Reclaiming the Rural — quoted in the proposal — wrote, “When invention, innovation and creation are seen as only of urban provenance, it is easy to write the rural out of the future – despite the long history of rural invention, innovation and creation…” The four Alberta counties aim to create a vibrant future, with a growing community positioned to succeed in the digital economy.

Parkland County says it will create a ‘Virtual AG Innovation Centre – Living Lab’ – providing a platform for application development that can be shared with other Canadian communities. The existing Smart Parkland program will be extended to include residents in the neighboring three counties.

Creating the Future

The Smart City movement is gaining momentum. Digital technologies, internet connectivity, and data analytics will help to address community challenges, increase efficiency, and improve quality of life. Technology will reshape the way people interact with the environment. New applications will engage citizens much more directly, responding to their needs in real-time, and giving them greater freedom of choice. The Internet of Things will make the environment itself intelligent.

Smart Cities are a significant new catalyst for innovation. “The best way to predict the future,” changemakers have said, “is to create it.” Making Smart Cities a reality requires that everyone in a community contribute to a larger collective effort. ISN has been privileged to work with stakeholders in forward-looking communities who are committed to creating the future together.

Integral Strategy Network works with organizations to help tackle their toughest, most enduring challenges.

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David Forrest

David is the founder of the Integral Strategy Network. He is a writer, futurist, strategist, and facilitator of systemic change.

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