OTTAWA – The most important aspect of creating an e-community is to ensure that the locals feel ownership in the project as stakeholders, delegates told the Smart City Summit Tuesday.

Public sector experts at the

annual event are gathering this week to discuss ways in which cities and communities are changing as a result of the way technology and innovation is being implemented.

Presenters at a seminar entitled Canadian Smart Community Profile, for example, included panelists who were part of an Industry Canada project, called Canada’s Smart Communities Demonstration, that aims to help communities begin and implement smart city initiatives.

Randy Johns, General Manager, Keewatin Career Development Corp., said it was crucial that strategic partnerships were formed within the community and that everyone had been engaged from the very beginning of the initiative, called the Headwater Project.

“”Part of our communication plan was to consult and inform the public early,”” explained Johns. “”We focused on our vision and used the news media to get our information out in the early stages of the initiative.””

Johns’ community, in Northern Saskatchewan, covers thousands of square miles and depends primarily on traditional industries such as mining and forestry. Consisting of 45 different communities, the area has a population of only 35,000, consisting mainly of aboriginal residents.

The challenge in creating a smart community in such an environment was that the residents had to be willing to get involved from the beginning and be willing to sustain the project, said Johns. The groundwork for the project had to include education, commerce opportunities, community and heritage services.

In Coquitlam British Columbia, the community had to focus on how to provide service and delivery as some of the infrastructure, such as high speed Internet, was already in place.

Jennifer Wilkie, Project Office Leader, Communications and Change Management, Smart Choices Society, said the goal of her group was to create an all-inclusive community portal.

“”When developing smart choices we needed to build safety nets, business choices, learning linkages, and create access to community groups and services,”” explained Wilkie. “”Our guiding principles ensure that there is access for the entire community and that we are socially responsible and sustainable.””

Wilkie stressed how important volunteers had become in doing simple things such as showing seniors how to use a computer. “”Volunteers and outreach programs are critical if the community is going to own the project,”” she said.

Wilkie said that the governance structure, combined with the stakeholders and community and focus groups, was as important as any of the other building blocks.

The Headwater Project has a board with a mixture of community representatives and agency managers. The members come from a variety of backgrounds including First Nations, Metis and non-aboriginal.

“”We have received significant support for our program,”” said Johns. “”We have had an excellent uptake of our programs and the community has welcomed our vision of the technology potential.””

The Smart City Summit continues on Wednesday.

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