TORONTO - Cities are the engines of economic growth. In a modern society, technology plays a key role in making cities function better, faster and smarter. Tools like network connections, computers, sensors and cameras, can help communities use integrated data to make wiser decisions. A digitally “Smart City” is a benefit to its residents, but an “intelligent community” is one that uses information and technology to drive prosperity, tackle social and economic issues and helps enrich the lives of its inhabitants.
This year, the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) named Mississauga as one of the Top7 Intelligent Communities in the world. The ICF is a New York based think tank which focuses on job creation and economic development in the broadband economy.
In a press release, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie called the recognition a “significant milestone for Mississauga”. This marks the second stage of the ICF’s Annual Award cycle. The first was in March when Mississauga received the Smart21 award acknowledging the city’s focus on digital innovation, accessibility and transparency.
Along with Mississauga, two other Canadian cities rank among the Top7, Langley, British Columbia and Winnipeg, Manitoba. The other four communities are: Binh Duong Smart City, Vietnam; Curitiba, Brazil; Moscow, Russia and Townsville, Australia.
These cities do not necessarily represent the most technologically advanced centres. However, they do exercise some of the best practices in terms of innovation, broadband use, workforce development, digital inclusion and help solve problems that matter. According to ICF, “they are charting new paths to lasting prosperity for their citizens, businesses and institutions”.
The focus of the ICF Method centers on strategies for economic, social and cultural growth. Communities are evaluated on the basis of six crucial elements: Innovate, engage, include, sustain, connect and work.
Since 2002, several Canadian cities have earned their place on the list. Last year, two Ontario cities were named among the Top7, Hamilton and Markham. Toronto has appeared on list in previous years. The first time in 2005, again in 2014 and most recently in 2016.
However, this is the first time that Mississauga has gained recognition as one of the Top7 Intelligent Communities. Not surprisingly, as the city is transforming into a strong business and technology centre. Over the last four years, the city has processed more than 17,000 applications for installation permits that internet service providers need which help strengthen the community’s online network.
That in itself has been a critical component to help citizens stay connected especially through Covid-19 and all the pandemic induced lockdowns and restrictions. Initiatives like the city’s Digital Main Street Program have been vital for small business to help pivot operations and move their enterprise online in an effort to stay versatile and competitive.
Education is another important component. The city’s Building Skilled Talent Together program helps train students in skills necessary for high demand jobs in the local economy.
While Mississauga evolves as an “intelligent community”, Mayor Crombie issued a Tweet that read, “our focus on a high-tech future will ensure we remain one of the best places to live, work and invest”.
In October, after the final round of analysis, one of the Top7 will be named ICF’s Community of the year, a model of economic and social transformation in the digital age.