The municipal leaders in St. Albert recognized the opportunity to modernize their community by becoming a Smart City in 2014. Identified as a ‘growth region’ in Canada, their population is expected to double in the next 30 years. The city believed that by transforming into an “urban area that solves its core issues through innovation and collaboration and that applies new technologies and data for the benefit of all”, (source), it could become more efficient in providing services and support for its communities and businesses.30 A founding member of the Smart City Alliance, a cross-sector collaborative group, and one of the first communities in the province of Alberta to officially undertake this project, the city needed to define what becoming a Smart City meant for their community.
Conducted over two years and reaching over 2,000 stakeholders, this project was one of the city’s largest and most diverse public engagement efforts. In this process, the city deployed a series of digital, traditional and direct strategies and tools. This included committee presentations, surveys, group visits, focus groups, community and regional events, meetings and forums, a pecha kucha series and online feedback tools which sought engagement from youth, residents, businesses and all levels of education.32 From these sessions, the city identified major themes and developed 22 key strategies under eight focus areas, which were used as the framework of St. Albert’s Smart City master plan.
What did we learn from St. Albert?
An extensive approach to engaging and empowering the community, like the one taken by St. Albert, leads to identifying key strategies for Smart City implementation. Some of the key identified strategies were continued cross-sectoral collaboration, ensuring proper resource allocation and implementation, integration and monitoring of technology and digitization, appropriate change management support, cross-municipality collaboration and learning, and continued funding or partnerships to promote further innovation.
Defining the goals for your Smart City projects will create standards to measure the impact of the implementation of the projects, just as St. Albert did before embarking on any plans.