Across Canada, governments and communities are out to get Canadians connected. In 2000, 51% of all Canadian households had at least one member who was a regular Internet user from one location or another, which was an increase from 42% in 1999.

However, through its Connecting Canadians strategy, the federal government is determined to make Canada a 100% wired country -- "the most connected country in the world" -- by 2004.

Our vast- and sparsely-populated country leaves many Canadians without the communication and economic opportunities that we take for granted in urban areas. Our geography is a tremendous challenge for businesses and other service providers. With technology we can meet that challenge and bring the country together.

One important step in that direction is the federal Smart Communities Program which promises to invest $60 million over the next three years to help establish one Smart Communities Demonstration Project in each province, one in the North and one in an Aboriginal community. This program is part of the federal government's aim to "establish Canada as the world leader in the development and export of Smart Communities technologies and services, and to showcase its capability of capturing significant international market share."

According to Industry Canada, which serves as the program's Directorate, a Smart Community is defined as "a community with a vision of the future that involves the use of information and communication technologies in new and innovative ways to empower its residents, institutions and regions as a whole. As such, it makes the most of the opportunities that new technologies afford including better health care delivery, better education and training and new business opportunities."

The Smart Communities Program will offer non-repayable contributions to cover up to 50 percent of eligible costs to a maximum of CN$5 million per community over three years. Communities that are selected for funding will enter into a contribution agreement with Industry Canada which outlines the terms and conditions, including anticipated results.

Through the demonstration projects, the federal government expects benefits to trickle down to all communities. The development and delivery of strategies, skills, tools and lessons learned by all communities seeking to become Smart will be shared through The Smart Communities Resource Exchange which acts as a clearing house and networking centre for best practices, applications and technologies.

If you don't want your community to be left behind, check out the online Guide for Creating a Smart Community, which outlines practical approaches to building a smart community. While developers of the Guide acknowledge that each community has unique characteristics and there is no one "right" way to design a smart community strategy, they feel their template is a good starting point since it gives communities something to adapt instead of forcing them to start from scratch. The Guide is described as a living document and will be updated to reflect what the demonstration communities learn.

Don't be shy about checking in with the Demonstration Communities now instead of waiting until they have gotten really smart. In this learn-as-you-get-connected set of projects, every Canadian that gets involved has something to gain.

  • Aborignial: K-Net
  • Alberta: INFOPORT Community Empowerment Project
  • British Columbia: Smart Choices
  • Manitoba: Manitoba Smart Network
  • New Brunswick: Centre of Convergence and ICT Applications
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Smart Labrador
  • North: Smart Solutions Society
  • Nova Scotia: Western Valley Smart Communities
  • Ontario: SmartCapital
  • Quebec: Carrefour de la Maurice
  • Prince Edward Island: Smart Services
  • Saskatchewan: Headwaters
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