Smart City, Councillor Jan Harder, City of Ottawa
Last month I touched on smart cities and the importance of being prepared for the impact of increased urbanization and globalization. The City of Ottawa has a strategic plan to ensure that it is at the forefront of this economic and social revolution. The city’s smart city strategy is entitled Smart City 2.0 and its goal is to make Ottawa ready for the changes occurring globally, and ultimately be a world leader in smart cities.
What is a smart city? The most basic definition describes it as a municipality that uses information and communication technologies to advance economical growth and improve resident’s lives. Rapidly changing technology, an increase in urban demographics and global economics put pressure on a city to not only sustain this “smart” edge but to continuously be at the top of the game. A city can’t simply rest on its laurels but has to be proactive and prepare for technological and economic changes.
Why is there a need for a city to be smart? Increased urbanization and globalization have created never seen before challenges and opportunities for cities. The rate of growth of cities has increased substantially. More and more people are leaving the rural landscape and moving to the city for various reasons but primarily due to economic pressures. As resources become scarcer, cities need to do more with less. These financial pressures force us to look for smarter and better solutions. The impact of urbanization on the environment is also a factor. As cities expand, the need for more sustainable practices are paramount. Finally, increased globalization has meant that cities are now competing with each other for resources — both physical and human.
Smart cities use technology to accelerate economic growth to improve citizens lives and foster economic growth. On a basic level, smart cities use tools and applications to optimize resources and improve their delivery to residents. For example, the “where’s my snow plow” app which lets a resident know when the snow removal trucks will be by on their streets. On a larger scale, the collection of data is being used to address serious challenges such as traffic congestion and environmental issues.
Ottawa’s Smart City 2.0 strategy is centred on three goals. First, being a Connected City. The idea is that all residents and businesses should be connected in an affordable and universal way. Secondly, a smart economy. Economic growth is generated by an investment in knowledge-based businesses and smart talent development. Thirdly, an innovative government. New methods in service delivery and technological solutions will make residents’ lives better.
The city of Ottawa’s role is one of leadership; to be the one bringing all the stakeholders together – from businesses, residents and all other agencies involved in the creation and “workings” of a smart city. Smart cities are funded and developed in part by its residents. Therefore, it is important that you are part of this process. Continual engagement in the form of feedback is a means of participating in the smart growth of your city.
A leading-edge and high speed infrastructure is paramount for the continued development of a smart city and Ottawa has been aware of this for a decade. There is extensive fibre optic infrastructure throughout the city. Furthermore, the strong high-tech enterprises in Ottawa keep the innovation fresh and cutting-edge. Recently we saw an example of Ottawa’s leadership with the first road test of an autonomous vehicle in Canada.
On a final note, one of the smart city initiatives I have personally been working on is precision agriculture. Ottawa is 82% rural and we have the tools, talent and innovative drive to capitalize on this and become a global leader in agriculture. Stay tuned…I’ll tell you more about this next month.