The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) has named Montreal, Quebec, Canada as its 2016 Intelligent Community of the Year. The awards ceremony, held in the Africa Event Center at the Columbus Zoo, was the conclusion of the Intelligent Community Forum’s annual Summit. Montreal succeeds Columbus, which also was the host city for the 2016 ICF Summit, as the think-tank’s annual Intelligent Community of the Year. Also at the Awards Dinner, Rio de Janeiro’s Knowledge Squares Program was honored with ICF’s prestigious Visionary of the Year award.
For Montreal, the largest French-speaking city in North America, the award was a culmination of work that has been underway since the city introduced a Smart City plan in 2011. The 2016 ICF Awards Program marked Montreal’s first appearance on ICF’s Top7 Intelligent Communities list, and only its second appearance on ICF’s Smart21 Communities list. The three founders of the Intelligent Community Forum presented the Award along with Mayor Rob van Gijzel of Eindhoven, The Netherlands, who serves as chairman of the ICF Foundation, and representatives from previous Intelligent Community of the Year recipients. Montreal is the fourth Canadian city to capture ICF’s top honor, and the first since 2014 (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Calgary, Alberta was named in 2002 and Waterloo, Ontario earned the top spot in 2007.
“Our jury believed that Montreal played the innovation game at the highest possible level,” said ICF Co-Founder Lou Zacharilla. “The city has found perhaps the strongest link and example of how to go from the revolution of technology to the new Renaissance that we believe cities can enter. Montreal never strayed far from the DNA that gave the world Cirque de Soleil and a powerful games industry. It has continued to invest in innovative urban statements such as the Quartier des Spectacles, where broadband and ICT, in our view, play the proper role in enabling the economic and human expression of culture.’
Montreal was selected as the 2016 Intelligent Community of the Year after a year-long evaluation that included a quantitative analysis of extensive data, site inspections by the Intelligent Community Forum, and votes from an international jury made up of experts from around the world. Communities in the Awards program are evaluated based on six Intelligent Community Indicators, along with a seventh criteria, ICF’s annual theme, From Revolution to Renaissance.
Intelligent Community of the Year 2016 Snapshot: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The largest French-speaking city in North America, the Montreal Metro Area is home to more than a tenth of Canada’s population. The region was hit by the decline of heavy industry in the 1980s, and launched a large-scale transition of its economy to ICT, aerospace, life sciences, health technologies and clean tech. Together, these clusters contain more than 6,250 companies employing about 10% of the workforce.
A Smart City plan introduced in 2011 is the most recent contributor to this transition. It focuses on further build-out of the city’s wired and wireless broadband infrastructure, as well as deploying technology to make city services and systems more efficient and creating a collaborative ecosystem involving business, institutions and citizens.
The city owns its own electric utility, which has contributed to an 81% Internet penetration rate, with most connections at high speed. Current plans call for build-out of free WiFi across the 17 square kilometers of the central city. An open “citizen laboratory” already invites participation in incubating social technologies. An aggressive train-the-trainer program operates from 85 centers to equip community leaders with digital skills, which also help the significant portion of the population who struggle with basic literacy, a legacy of the city’s industrial past.
The metro area’s universities graduate more students from higher education than any other Canadian city. Over 415,000 students earned an undergraduate or graduate degree there from 1998 through 2008. Montreal institutions also received more than 160,000 registrations for e-learning in the 2011-12 school year, while a specialized program is training hundreds of teachers in the use of digital technologies. This educational foundation feeds into the region’s fast-growing knowledge economy, which is a major focus of policy. Montreal operates six Learning Labs specializing in areas from transportation to healthcare and urban planning, and has deployed an online collaboration system to engage its ICT cluster (some 5,000 companies) in more open innovation. Accelerator programs and co-working spaces foster an expanding start-up culture, with the arts and media playing a significant role; Cirque de Soleil is a Montreal company.
Montreal is distinct as an Intelligent Community because of its unusually rich mix of private-sector, public-sector and social enterprise innovation. A large-scale Innovation District studded with university campuses, incubators and accelerators fosters new companies and attracts the innovation units of established firms like Deloitte. An Entertainment District mixes interactive public art and public performance space with a cluster of theaters, music halls and nightclubs. The city also capitalizes social enterprises from urban farming to arts installations and a project, “I make Montreal,” that has engaged thousands in projects that enrich the social and cultural fabric of the city.
The Intelligent Community Forum
The Intelligent Community Forum is an independent think-tank and presented the awards as part of its annual Summit. The ICF Summit was attended by hundreds of thought leaders from around the world, including the world’s 2016 Top7 Intelligent Communities and previous Intelligent Communities of the Year, including New York, Columbus, Calgary, Waterloo, Toronto, Eindhoven, Taipei and Taichung. The event was produced by The Columbus ICF Summit LLC with support from a number of sponsoring organizations. Mayors, city managers, CIOs, and executives of leading technology companies from around the world, as well as academics, economic developers and urban planners, are part of the Intelligent Community movement and participated in the four-day Summit.
During the Summit, the Forum also presented its 2016 Visionary of the Year Award to Rio de Janeiro’s Knowledge Squares Program. ICF recognized the program for its novel approach, which makes digital inclusion the centerpiece of neighborhood regeneration for some of the Rio’s most impoverished and excluded citizens.