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Two months left to submit plan for Canada’s Smart City Challenge

Ontario – Infrastructure Canada’s long-awaited “Smart City Challenge” is now in full swing across the country and already, communities and green-groups are gathering input and ideas from citizens for their funding bid to the federal government.

Who doesn’t have an idea of how a city or town should operate in this day of innovation and technological advances? The Honorable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities thinks Canadians all across the country have lots of ideas on how to improve the quality of life for their residents.

Originally announced last June, the Smart Cities Challenge is open to all communities in Canada, regardless of their size. One prize of $50 million is available to all communities, two prizes of $10 million for communities with populations of 500,000 and under, and one prize of $5 million exclusively for communities with populations of 30,000 and under.

Infrastructure Canada team member answers questions about the Challenge.
Infrastructure Canada team member answers questions about the Challenge.

Gerald Peets is the Director General of the Smart Cities Challenge team at Infrastructure Canada. He told ITbusiness.ca in an interview that communities need to remember they have been given a deadline of April 24, 2018, to submit their proposals.

But what is a smart city?

Again, like many issues – it depends on who you are. And it depends if you are a politician, academic, or in the private sector. Actually, there are more than 30 terms used in scholarly and technical literature to characterize future urban environments, or what is now called “smart cities.”

Policy Options says the term smart city was coined by IBM in the early 2000s as a way of tapping into the municipal consulting marketplace. They established the first Smart Cities Challenge, an essentially free consultation service focused on creating business for the company.

So looking at the smart city challenge overall, you could say it is grounded in technology and framed in financing from the private sector. Or, you could say a smart city is defined as one that harnesses technology to improve service production and delivery, enhance local economies and provide citizens easier access to city government, resulting in a better quality of life.

Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia

The six focal areas in the Smart City Challenge Peets said “We’re asking communities to essentially pick something their residents would say needs fixing, and to go on the record as saying, Look, here’s where we stand today. We’d like to make this quantifiable, measurable improvement in the future. And we’re going to use a smart cities approach to do it.”

To that end, six focus points will help communities in their selection of a project, and any one project is a good choice They include the following:

Economic opportunity.
Empowerment and inclusion.
Environmental Quality.
Healthy living and recreation.
Safety and security.

All applications accepted will be posted online, said Peets, so everybody will be able to look at what has come in, whether it’s people who want to see what their community has put forward or businesses and organizations who might want to join the conversation.

It will be exciting to see what communities come up with, and at the same time, this is a fantastic opportunity for any town, regardless of its size to take part in a national conversation that involves how innovation and technology can be used to make our lives better.

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