Three Canadian cities – Edmonton, AB, Vancouver, BC, and Fredericton, NB – have been named among the world’s 21 smartest communities as the result of their smart and sensitive use of technology to foster socioeconomic progress.
New York-based ICF is a nonprofit think tank that focuses on job creation and economic development in the broadband economy.
The Smart21 announcement is the first stage of ICF’s annual Intelligent Community of the Year awards cycle. It will be followed, in January 2008, by naming of the Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year, short-listed from among the Smart21.
The cycle will conclude in New York City on May 16, 2008, where one community from the 21 will be named the Intelligent Community of the Year during the annual Building the Broadband Economy summit.
Edmonton, Vancouver and Fredericton – the three Canadian cities on the 2008 Smart21 list – are “very different [in] regard to their overall development and strategies,” said ICF cofounder and director of development, Louis Zacharilla.
But he said each of these three cities met ICF’s five primary criteria for an intelligent community.
Outlined in an ICF document titled Intelligent Community Indicators these criteria are:
Broadband infrastructure – Intelligent communities, the ICF says, express a clear vision, craft effective public policies, and promote equitable access to broadband assets.
Knowledge workforce – Effective development of knowledge workers, says the ICF document, “extends from the factory floor to the research lab, and from the loading dock to the call center or Web design studio.”
Innovation – Intelligent communities foster innovation by creating an environment that attracts creative people.
Digital inclusion – Such communities implement policies and programs to ensure that the benefits of technology are enjoyed by everybody – not just a privileged few.
Marketing – Intelligent communities market themselves effectively, based on knowledge of the competitive offerings of other cities and regions.
In addition to meeting these five fundamental criteria, each of the three Canadian cities was cited for its own special accomplishments.
In Edmonton’s case, it was the community’s exemplary success in “managing medical data, and its emphasis on nanotechnology, along with partnerships designed to further economic growth into the digital age.”
Zacharilla said Vancouver’s track record for creating jobs in the small business corridor was “very impressive”, while Fredericton’s use of broadband to further promote open government got ICF’s attention.
“We believe technology must enable both economic and social development, but mainly in support of more transparent and representative governance at the local level.”
According to the ICF cofounder, communities in the latest Smart 21 list were selected from a total of 400 nominations for the 2008 Intelligent Community of the Year that came from three main sources: the ICF”s own outreach and investigation; from ICF correspondents around the globe, and from communities themselves.
Fredericton, he noted, had also made the Smart21 list in 2006 because of its initiatives in forming technology clusters.
“We are pleased to see them back on the list, because it means they have continued to make progress.”
Community leaders in the three Canadian Smart21 cities say their selection reinforces their commitment to using IT in a socially responsible way.
“The role of information technology is going to keep growing,” said Sheila Weatherill, president & CEO of Edmonton’s Capital Health Authority, one of Canada’s largest integrated health regions.
In 2004, Capital Health was recognized as one of Alberta’s top five most innovative organizations.
Weatherill said Edmonton’s accomplishments in the area of e-health (a key factor in its selection for the Smart21 list) are exemplified by projects such as netCARE, Canada’s first major regional electronic health record (EHR) rolled out by Capital Health.
As netCARE stores all health information electronically, it does away with the need to shuttle paper records between health care sites.
Wherever a patient receives treatment within the Capital Health region, authorized health care staff have immediate real-time access to his or her records, including personal registration information and details about tests, medications and allergies. This enables caregivers to quickly access up-to-date information to make the right health care decisions.
Weatherill said netCARE is milestone in the shift Edmonton is making toward patient-centred care.
The same vision, she said, would inform future projects such as the Edmonton Clinic, scheduled to be open on the University of Alberta Hospital campus in 2011.
“The Clinic will be our first ‘digital hospital’, where IT supports a new level of coordination aimed at moving a patient from their first consult with a specialist to starting treatment within days instead.