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Take a "Smart Snapshot" of Your Community

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 13 May 2003 00:00

Is your community a leader or will it be left behind? Canadians can now take a "Smart Snapshot" of their community's technology strengths and challenges with help from Industry Canada. The Snapshot and associated work sheets, provide a quick overview of local broadband or "smart" potential.

Smart communities are those "where leaders and stakeholders have formed alliances and partnerships to develop innovative ways to extract new economic and social value from electronic networks and the public Internet." A smart community may consist of a city or a group of geographically adjacent communities that are facing similar challenges. Communities that are geographically separated can also collaborate to form a smart community, particularly when they share a common culture.

The focus of smart community strategies is to change the dynamics of growth in the community, to make it an attractive and competitive location in which to live, invest and carry on business. This is accomplished by using broadband information and communications technologies as tools to build the community, solve its problems, and transform the way individuals and organizations live, work, learn, shop and manage their affairs.

The Smart Snapshot takes only minutes to print out and fill in. It can be used as a briefing document at the start-up phase of a smart initiative to inform and engage the community or to guide planning, mark progress and assist with smart research. Coupled with the "Guide for Creating a Smart Community ", it is a complete resource and development tool.

The Snapshot worksheets directly link the major smart criteria sections to the many smart development resources available on the site. For instance, if you want specific information on community engagement or infrastructure, just check the Snapshot, and you will have direct access to information and tools related to your specific interest. Snapshot sections include: Organization, Community Engagement, Infrastructure, Online Services and Smart Results.

The Snapshot has been designed for both rural and urban communities, for communities thinking about starting a smart initiative and for those that have embarked on a smart vision exercise and implementation.

Building a smart community involves a series of related broadband connectivity projects that are linked through:

  • an overall goal and vision for the community

  • common economic and social objectives that are specific to the community's needs and opportunities

  • a strategy for realizing those objectives

    Projects may provide new and improved network-based services and applications for:

  • the administration of municipal government and delivery of services like social services to the public

  • business, economic and tourism development

  • access to information, e.g. community activities and programs and development of the arts

  • learning, training and education

  • preservation of cultural heritage

    Twelve 12 Smart Communities Demonstration Projects function as "learning laboratories" in which the innovative use of these technologies is being showcased. As they enter the third year of the project, valuable "lessons learned" are beginning to emerge. The Kuh-ke-nah Network (K-Net) of Smart First Nations (Keewaytinook Okimakanak) in northwestern Ontario provides suggestions for remote communities interested in establishing sustainable information and communication networks:

  • Ensure local control of the entire network, including the end devices.

    "Have the communities drive the network growth. Have them identify the needs and take ownership of the network as much as possible. Have everyone, including business owners, recognize that business needs are different from community or social needs and work within that recognition rather than opposing it." says Dan Pellerin, K-Net Network Manager.

  • Support local "capacity building" opportunities and resources such as training projects, cooperative education, library services, public access sites to ensure that youth, employment and business development initiatives experience growth and successes.

  • Video applications such as video-conferencing and telehealth are important services that can generate sustainable revenue. To maximize value and revenue they must deliver TV quality images, requiring 2-way symmetrical services.

  • Use flexible open source software products which can be adapted to suit organizational and community needs and allow the community to control evolution of the software services.

  • Establish revenue generating services such as website and portal development and hosting which will be valuable to businesses and organizations across the community.

  • Lobby government agencies to ensure that they use the community network to deliver their services throughout the region.
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