City pushing its intelligence

Article Date: March 19, 2014

KINGSTON - Kingston is gearing up to show the world just how smart it really is.

On Jan. 23, the city was selected by the Intelligent Communities Forum, a New York city-based think-tank, as one of the world’s seven most-intelligent communities.

The top seven cities were named at an event at Taichung City, Taiwan and represent “the best examples of the best economic, social and cultural development using communications and information technologies,” said the ICF.

The winning city will be announced on July 5 in New York.

In order for Kingston to earn the prestigious title, it has two days to show ICF co-founder Lou Zacharilla its brainy side.

On Thursday and Friday, Zacharilla will tour programs and facilities highlighted in the city’s application, such as Innovation Park, the Queen’s University Human Media Lab, AudioConexus and Queen’s Innovation Connector.

According to the ICF website “intelligent communities are cities and regions that use information and communications technologies to build prosperous economies, solve social problems and enrich their culture.” They use technology to not only improve their efficiency, but to create better jobs and a better quality of life.

Communities are judged in five different areas — broadband connectivity, knowledge work force, digital inclusion, innovation, and marketing and advocacy. These five “key indicators” are considered critical factors for creating a successful and competitive local economy.

Last year Kingston received a score of 82 out of 100, and ranked eighth voerall. The city earned the highest marks in the areas of broadband connectivity, which it highlights as one of its biggest accomplishments.

Broadband connectivity is considered the basis upon which to have an intelligent community, explained Campbell Patterson, project manager for the ICF application.

“First off we have an extensive municipally-owned fibre optic network that connects all of the public sector organizations in the city and many large commercial entities,” said Patterson.

From Innovation Park to Queen’s University to hospitals and the Limestone District school board, 375 of the city’s public organizations and private businesses are connected to the networks set up by Utilities Kingston.

“When people connect to that broadband network they do innovative things,” said Patterson. “They create new application, services and products. And it’s through that innovation that you create economic value.”

Sustainability played a big part in the city’s nomination. When Kingston was announced as part of the top seven, Zacharilla said the city “leveraged its educational institutions to build an innovation economy focused on environmental sustainability.”

Being sustainable requires the use of smart technologies in order to manage resources, explained Patterson.

“There’s a natural fit between being sustainable and an intelligent community. They go hand in glove.”

Zacharilla called Kingston the “dark horse” of the competition, according to a press release from the city. Pitted against larger cities like Toronto and Winnipeg, it’s a bit of a “David and Goliath” scenario said Patterson.

If Kingston is successful in becoming the ICF’s most intelligent community, it could help market the city to even more innovative businesses. “It’s a good thing to have on a resume,” said Jeff Garrah, CEO of Kingston Economic Development Corporation.

But according to Patterson winning is not as important as bringing the community together to work on a common cause.

On Thursday, the city will be launching a website called Seriously Smart YGK to make the subject more approachable to citizens and get more people involved in creating an intelligent sustainable community.

“The idea that this is an opportunity to bring folks together, to work together in order to become a more intelligent, sustainable community than we are today is one of these goals with no end point,” he said.

Michelle Ferguson,