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Smart, Connected and Inclusive Community

Smart City Strategy • Public Sector

Client

Strathcona County

My Involvement

Project Consultant: workshop facilitation, strategy development

Our Team

Celia Wanderley (Project Manager)

Timeline

January - April 2018 (4 months)

Problem Space

A specialized municipality of 1,265 square kilometres with hamlets, acreages, urban neighbourhoods as well as rural and industrial lands, Strathcona County was striving to be a welcoming place to live for all of its diverse citizens.

The County engaged our team to coordinate the development of its application submission to the Canadian Federal Government Smart Cities Challenge. Outcomes, goals, metrics, projects, activities and partners needed to be identified on how the County could achieve a particular Challenge Statement with the use of a “smart city approach.”

The County also wanted to leverage this application as a broader smart city strategy that would guide their short and long term priorities and initiatives. It was seeking to become a “smart county” by leveraging digital technologies and ways of working, as well as by putting their citizens at the centre of decision making.

01. Analysis & Aspiration Development

In 2016, the County implemented Community Talk, a public engagement campaign that created a space for honest conversations about how residents can best support each other at all levels of community.

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We conducted an in-depth review of the Community Talk results to understand what citizens were currently thinking, feeling and saying. The feedback revealed there were four priority “Community Outcomes” that required effort on in order for everyone to feel supported, safe and connected:

  1. Affordability

  2. Safety

  3. Access to Programs and Services

  4. Connectedness and Inclusion

Citizens specifically stressed the importance of connectedness and working together to build a stronger community. As such, the “Connectedness and Inclusion” outcome was prioritized as a key focus area for the smart city strategy.

Where “smart” fits in.

 

I then conducted additional document reviews - such as the County’s strategic plan and enterprise technology plan - to further understand their ambitions and where they were in terms of digital maturity.

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Strathcona County had already started to lay the foundation in the “Smart City 1.0” phase through the implementation of smart technologies. Now, it was looking to continue its technological advancements to address citizen needs tied to the findings of Community Talk.

To do so, it would leverage “big” and “small” data collected from these technologies to inform decision-making and improve program and service planning and delivery (“Smart City 2.0”), and ultimately be able to more proactively anticipate and address citizen needs (“Smart City 3.0”).

02. Smart City Concept

Our next step was to ideate on how Strathcona County could achieve its goal of becoming a “smart county.” The County was looking for a concept that would leverage digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data, IoT, etc. to address the needs of the community, with a particular focus on connectedness and inclusion.

I facilitated co-creative ideation sessions with various stakeholders from the County. Ultimately, our ideas converged towards the Community Digital Hub, a smart digital platform that integrates programs, services, and events from various partner organizations across sectors. It would provide a centralized location for citizens to find information, get involved in community activities, and access programs and services to ultimately increase their sense of connectedness and inclusion within the community. Furthermore, the Community Digital Hub would leverage data and cognitive technologies to predict citizen needs and help the County move into a more proactive form of planning, enabling Strathcona County to become a truly “smart” county.

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The Community Digital Hub concept inspired the Smart City Challenge Statement / Vision:

 
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03. Strategy Development

The structure of the smart city strategy consisted of the following:

I. Outcomes
II. Metrics
III. Projects and Activities

 

I. Outcomes

Direct Outcomes: achieved through the successful execution of the proposed projects and activities.

Connectedness with programs and services. Increased citizen access to programs, services and events that provide opportunities for meaningful connections.

Connectedness between organizations. Increased collaboration and integration between organizations across the public, private, and non-profit sectors.


Indirect Outcomes: achieved indirectly as a result of the successful execution of the projects and activities. The fulfillment of the indirect outcomes will enable the achievement of the vision.

Connectedness with other citizens. Increased feeling of inclusion and engagement through increased person-to-person interactions

Inclusion within the community. Increased feeling of inclusion and safety through engagement in community services and activities

For example, successfully using behavioural data to understand that youth are facing bullying at school and suggesting a relevant intervention through the Digital Community Hub (Direct Outcome: Connectedness with programs and services) can help improve their situation and help them feel more included at school (Indirect Outcome: Inclusion within the community).

 
 
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II. Metrics

For each of the direct and indirect outcomes, I identified a number of Indicators of Progress, Baseline Measures and Specific Goals. The Specific Goals represented a balance between what is achievable given financial, technical, and partnership constraints, as well as realistic user adoption rates, and the ambition for the Community Digital Hub to broadly penetrate the community and connect citizens from all backgrounds.

Here are sample metrics for the “Inclusion within the community” outcome:

Indicator of progress: Percentage of youth who face bullying

Baseline measure: Through Community Talk, 40% of Junior High and High School students said they were bullied.

Specific Goal: Have at least 3 services that targets youth who face bullying at Community Digital Hub launch to support the decrease of the percentage of Junior High and High School students who say they are bullied.

III. Projects and Activities

We identified what needed to be in place in order to implement the Community Digital Hub.

 

Technology building blocks

These building blocks will build upon the County’s existing “smart” infrastructure and includes technologies such as:

  • Open wi-fi and broadband access

  • Online services portal

  • Unique digital citizen profile

  • Open data portal

  • Artificial intelligence modelling

  • Blockchain for service provisioning from multiple service owners

  • Internet-of-things (IoT) technology

Program Management

A project management office (PMO) structure will be deployed, to carefully orchestrate the project delivery activities and monitor the quality of the processes and products being created.

Organizational Change Management and Training

Key stakeholders across the public, private, non-profit and government will be accounted and cared for through a coherent organizational change management methodology. This will accelerate the rate of change acceptance and adoption of the Community Digital Hub.

Citizen Engagement Plan

Various degrees of public involvement will be used in order to validate concepts, test solutions, and ensure that citizen needs remain at the heart of smart city journey. This ranges from public engagement campaigns, such as Community Talk, to online platforms of engagement to reach a broader audience for feedback, such as social media an Online Research Panel.

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Once implemented, the Community Digital Hub will use machine learning to analyze large quantities of user behaviour data arising from interactions with the Community Digital Hub to inform information, programs, and service recommendations. Additionally, sentiment analysis will provide insights on user attitudes and opinions towards specific programs and services, which will then drive program, service and policy decisions.

Impact & Reflections

Impact

The implementation of this strategy will enable Strathcona County to shift from its current position (“Smart City 1.0”) towards the next stages of the Smart City maturity model.

Smart Cities are all about the people that they serve and the Community Digital Hub will create a platform for the ecosystem of players that serve the community, private, public and not-for-profit sectors. It will enable the County to improve their understanding of citizen needs, goals, and pain points, better manage supply and demand, and redesign their programs and services to improve the citizen experience (“Smart City 2.0”).

Reflections

As someone passionate about leveraging digital, technology, and human-centred design to improve citizen experiences, this project was extremely exciting to me. However, I am also cognizant that how we design touchpoints and services determines who can and can not participate in them.

An area I would have liked to explore further is the digital divide between population segments; citizens who have Wi-Fi can access digital services more easily than those who do not, leading to an inequitable distribution of benefits. While the Community Digital Hub is an ambitious idea, it may unintentionally leave some communities behind which would counteract its goal of fostering inclusivity.

This is partially mitigated by the Citizen Engagement Plan, which strives to gather and incorporate feedback from diverse community members, and to co-create solutions with citizens. However, the County must ensure that its distribution channels are accessible, that engagement processes are transparent and inclusive, and that metrics provide insight into outcomes across population segments.

To design for an increased feeling of inclusivity within a community, we must first start by ensuring that the design itself is inclusive.

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