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St. John’s enters Canadian Smart Cities Challenge

St. John’s Coun. Maggie Burton and Happy City St. John’s chair Rob Nolan addressed the media Tuesday near The Loop in Bannerman Park about the Canadian Smart Cities Challenge.
St. John’s Coun. Maggie Burton and Happy City St. John’s chair Rob Nolan addressed the media Tuesday near The Loop in Bannerman Park about the Canadian Smart Cities Challenge. - Joe Gibbons

The City of St. John’s and Happy City St. John’s are teaming up to help residents live a healthy and active lifestyle.
To do so, they will enter the Canadian Smart Cities Challenge, a federal government competition intended to inspire communities across the country to define their future with the help of their residents using a smart cities approach.

Winning communities will be awarded prize money to help implement their proposals. There will be one prize of up to $50 million, open to all communities, regardless of population, and two prizes of up to $10 million for communities with populations of less than 500,000.

The City of St. John’s will apply for one of the $10-million prizes.

The challenge is not for funding an ongoing program, service or infrastructure, but for creating something new, for championing new ideas.

“The Smart Cities Challenge encourages municipalities to define their future, and we recognize the need to take a meaningful lead on a serious, provincewide issue — public health,” St. John’s Coun. Maggie Burton said at an outdoor news conference held near The Loop in Bannerman Park.

“We are proposing the development of a modern, Integrated Mobility Network, informed by engagement with the community and the collection and analysis of mobility data, that capitalizes on our world-class trail systems and entrepreneurial spirit,” she added.

Burton said the key will be for the city to analyze the data that is collected, something that is lacking at present.

The Canadian Smart Cities Challenge is an initiative that challenges communities to bring together a wide range of partners from public, private, education and community-based sectors to define a common “big problem” and craft a solution utilizing data and connected technologies.

A volunteer challenge committee has been struck to help advise and guide the direction of the application, and Happy City is co-ordinating an online survey and public forums to engage the community on the topic. Previous engagement work in support of other programs such as the Healthy Communities initiative will also help shape the content of the application.

“We have an opportunity for residents to come together in a conversation around how we can design a St. John’s of the future,” said Rob Nolan, chair of Happy City St. John’s.

“The theme for our proposal — Integrated Mobility Network — arose from conversations about the evolving needs of our community members, and the incredible potential for using smart technologies to design a mobility network that positively contributes to the health and well-being of citizens. At this stage of the project, we need to ensure voices from across the city are heard, and we are working to involve citizens with diverse mobility needs.”

Nolan said the hope is to determine the most efficient way people are getting around the community and use the smart technology that is out there to see how people are moving around the city.

Nolan said they are basing their bid on a project being done by Dr. Dan Fuller at Memorial University’s kinesiology department and his study on walkability. The intention is to scale that up in order to analyze and improve the networks.

Applications for the challenge must be submitted by April 24, after which juried finalists will be awarded $250,000 to flesh out their proposal.

Burton said if they are successful in the first round and secure the $250,000, they will apply for the next round of competition with the goal of looking at the transportation network as a whole.

“We will see what is working, what is right and what needs to be changed,” she said.
To take part in the application, residents are asked to respond to a survey that will be available soon. In addition, residents are asked to attend a public discussion, which will be announced in the coming week on both stjohns.ca and happycity.ca.

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