Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd like to thank the committee for having me.
The objective of my presentation is twofold. First, I want to provide some context for the smart city concept. Second, I'd like to share the approach the City of Québec is taking. Those are the two elements I plan to address.
The City of Québec has a population of 532,000 people spread across a 454-square-kilometre area. More than 40% of the population has a post-secondary education. In addition to being more francophone, the population is older than the provincial average. The Internet use rate is above 80%, and the unemployment rate is below 5%. That is a quick snapshot of the City of Québec.
Now I'd like to talk about what a smart city is. The use of smart technologies to make a city's infrastructure and services more efficient and interconnected. You'll find countless definitions out there, but that is the one we chose to go with. As we see it, a smart city is a better-managed and better-performing city thanks to the support of information technology, or IT. It is not, however, the use of IT, strictly speaking, that gives rise to a smart city but, rather, the context in which it functions.
A variety of smart city models and references exist. A number of private firms have developed concepts, including IBM. In fact, more and more ISO standards are emerging in the area, namely, the 37000 series of standards.
The smart city concept has really evolved. It's something we, in the City of Québec, have been interested in for eight or nine years now. We began by exploring what a smart city was through joint research with Université Laval and research partners around the world. That gave rise to some very interesting findings.
It's important to understand the reason for wanting a smart city; that is a basic point. The issues facing the City of Québec are certainly not the same as those facing Mexico City, for instance, where air quality was the most defining element at the time of the study. That isn't necessarily the case in the City of Québec.
Implementing technology all over the place is not enough; sound choices governing its use have to be made. A smart city is built around the needs of its residents and partners, who are stakeholders in the city's development. That is the logic guiding our efforts.
Our efforts, in the City of Québec, hinge on the co-operation and engagement of a variety of business sectors. I am, indeed, talking about an overall approach. It is based on certain elements such as information gathering, data interconnectivity, and analyses. All of that helps us to understand what a smart city entails and how to turn that understanding into reality.
In the City of Québec, we sought to figure out why we wanted to become a smart city. We adopted two strategic directions. On the one hand, we wanted the city to be appealing to tourists and immigrants from all over the world. On the other hand, at the city level, we wanted to improve our performance as an organization, primarily to improve the quality of life enjoyed by residents, business people, and tourists.
In tangible terms, a pillar of the city's 2012 economic development strategy was innovation and creativity. One of the fundamental objectives is to evolve as a smart city.
The City of Québec's technology sector is made up of 540 companies and employs nearly 20,000 people, 2,000 of whom work in research. The sector generates $1.7 billion in annual revenues and encompasses 65 research centres, chairs, groups, and institutes. Clearly, economic development is the way to attract people.
Specifically, the city chose to focus on six key areas. We have services to the public. In the services we deliver, first and foremost, are basic services such as water, public safety, and communication and interaction with the public.
We have services to the public, such as garbage collection. We have water, transportation, safety, economic development, and buildings and infrastructure.
How does technology bring a smart city to life?
Those are the areas our approach is based on. Unlike other organizations, the City of Québec did not set up an administrative body, office or service for the smart city. Mainly, we chose to synchronize the various initiatives and monitor how the city evolved.
Of course, the smart city concept helped us to better understand the phenomenon and work with other entities. Our efforts have been recognized by organizations such as the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum. We had the opportunity to take part in a philanthropic challenge put on by IBM. We explored the issue of digital inclusion. Although less focused on technology, the idea was to determine where in our region Internet service was least accessible.
We were interested in figuring out how we could incorporate libraries in our service offering. Naturally, we held a number of discussions and consulted multiple articles on the subject. Our approach focused on six key areas.
Now I would like to share with you the projects that emerged.
The city wants to better plan its network of bike paths and has sought the help of residents. It developed an app, called Mon trajet vélo, to track the routes that cyclists take throughout the city and to better understand their overall travel patterns. Albeit a less conventional form of civic engagement, this information-sharing initiative sheds light on cyclists' movements and leads to better city planning.
In addition, a series of technology showcases give businesses the opportunity to use city data and work with the city to pilot business projects they are interested in launching. Also available is a collection of digital books. City residents currently have access to more than 7,700 titles, accounting for nearly 100,000 book loans.
The city's transit provider, Réseau de transport de la Capitale, known as RTC, developed an app to make travel easier. The city is one of RTC's largest shareholders. We are working with the company to improve the flow of travel using traffic signal preemption. Normally reserved for fire trucks, this mechanism allows for better traffic light synchronization.
On the open data front, in conjunction with other large cities in the province, the City of Québec contributed to the implementation of a common data portal. The data belongs, of course, to the public, so we provided access to certain data sets, which can be leveraged to build all kinds of applications.
I should stress that the first objective of becoming a smart city is to improve residents' quality of life and support the activities provided to them by the city.