The City of Lethbridge – Intelligent Community Initiative (N-27)
The City of Lethbridge and Economic Development Lethbridge are working together on an initiative called Intelligent Community. Intelligent communities recognize the importance of technology and will implement it in various ways to improve the strength of the economy and the lives of residents. There are six “pillars” of an intelligent community. They are broadband connectivity, knowledge workforce, innovation, digital inclusion, sustainability, and marketing & advocacy. Let’s look at each of them in more detail.
What is it? – Having broadband connectivity means being able to access high speed internet connection for businesses and residents.
Why is this important? – Access to broadband connectivity or high speed internet is great for watching Netflix but it does so much more than that. For the local economy being able to access broadband connectivity encourages innovation, diversification, and job creation allowing businesses to reach out on a global scale to partners, vendors, employees, and customers. For residents it opens up opportunities for distance education, online entertainment, and communication (Skype, etc). It also enables us to use “smart” technologies at home such as thermostats, appliances, security and video, “smart care” solutions for senior citizens, etc.
What is happening in Lethbridge? – Most Lethbridge residents have the opportunity to use high speed internet in their homes through a wired connection if they wish to pay for that service. However some residents and many businesses do not have access to fast and reliable internet services. There are also weak cellular coverage areas and locations where publically available WiFi is desired but not available.
A connectivity working group consisting of nine different municipal departments within the City of Lethbridge is working with carriers such as Shaw, Telus, Rogers, and Bell to streamline processes to improve service to our community. For example, when a carrier requests to put a new cell tower in Lethbridge, the process has been streamlined so the tower can go up faster providing better cell service to the neighborhood as soon as possible. This group is also analyzing the current levels of connectivity available, reviewing industry standards, and developing a broadband strategy and Wifi strategy for the city.
What is it? – A knowledge workforce is a labor force that has the knowledge, skills, and ability to use information and technology effectively. A knowledge workforce includes workers from all industries from factory floors to research labs, from construction sites to corporate headquarters.
Why is this important? – Technologies are growing and evolving at a rapid rate. As new technologies emerge, a knowledge workforce is educated and prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities that the new technologies bring.
What is happening in Lethbridge? – In our school systems there are smart boards, laptops and tablets, digital textbooks, web portals, etc. There are also specialized classes in coding, robotics, and digital media. In our post-secondary schools there are opportunities for work-study programs, internships, career fairs, employer open house events, etc to foster collaboration between the educational institutions and employers.
What is it? – Promoting innovation means developing an environment where individuals and businesses can explore doing things in a new way that is more effective, efficient, and potentially more profitable.
Why is this important? – being innovative will allow us to explore technology and use it in new ways that will improve our lives.
What is happening in Lethbridge? – The City Council Strategic Plan 2014-17 highlights the importance of innovation in the community. Lethbridge has a CodeYQL group, entrepreneurship training and mentoring, Tecconnect (a business incubator to help startup companies grow), mobile apps and online services, intelligent transportation management systems, smart meter systems, and an open data portal at http://opendata.lethbridge.ca/
What is it? – Digital Inclusion means everyone has the ability to access the internet regardless of age, race, gender, or socio-economic group.
Why is this important? – As more and more services evolve from paper to online processes, access to the internet provides everyone with equal availability to benefit from those opportunities. It supports the idea that internet access is not a privilege of the wealthy but is a right for everyone.
What is happening in Lethbridge? – The Lethbridge Public Library and Lethbridge Community Network offer many opportunities for individuals and businesses to get started with technology. The library has 72 computers available for public use with help available from the information desk. They also offer classes in basic computer and keyboarding, how to access library eBooks, and an online digital resources class. Lethbridge Community Network offers public access computers and refurbished computers with genuine MS Office software. LCN also offers classes and one-on-one training in office and computer skills.
What is it? - Environmental sustainability ensures we have cleaner air and water, improved public transportation, and use fewer resources to create products and provide services.
Why is this important? – When we use fewer resources and protect the environment around us, we become more efficient, more productive, and improve our standard of living.
What is happening in Lethbridge? – The City of Lethbridge tracks waste disposal and recycling use and has a waste diversion policy targeting 50% waste reduction. City Council has approved a curbside recycling program that will begin in 2018. The Waste & Recycling and Water & Wastewater departments have individuals dedicated to education and communication about services and programs. Environment Lethbridge is a local group that promotes Lethbridge as a leader in environmental sustainability. Their activities include the annual Reuse Rendezvous, rain barrels available to purchase, and ongoing community outreach and education on environmental topics.
Marketing and Advocacy
What is it? – Marketing and Advocacy in Intelligent communities means the leaders, residents, and organizations are champions of change. A community’s leaders and residents can be a barrier to progress or can become its most powerful advocates for a better future.
Why is this important? – A community that effectively markets their advantages, digital policies, and cultural strengths, improves their economic development which grows the community and improves lives for its citizens.
What is happening in Lethbridge? – The City of Lethbridge educates and involves citizens and leaders in building a better future though citizen surveys, open government meetings, online engagement, and creating government-citizen task forces. Community development opportunities are communicated beyond our borders through websites, social media, print and digital advertising, public relations, participation in trade shows and conventions, and trade missions.
In October 2015 Lethbridge was named as an Intelligent Community by the Intelligent Community Forum. This award recognizes the work that has been done in our community to ensure our residents have the opportunity to use technology in ways that will improve their lives. This award is a milestone achievement but there is more to be done to ensure our citizens and businesses have the opportunities to use technology in ways that will help them prosper.
A steering committee made up of community leaders and representatives has developed an Intelligent Community strategy. The strategy can be seen in detail at http://www.intelligentyql.ca/strategy.php
The Intelligent Community initiative has been funded by City Council until 2018.
For more information about the Intelligent Community program at the City of Lethbridge, please visit www.intelligentYQL.ca
Vicky Bennett – Intelligent Community Program Manager, City of Lethbridge
Jaylene Ulmer – Director Marketing & Communications, EDL