In early April, Happy City St. John’s and the City of St. John’s announced a partnership to prepare a proposal for the Smart Cities Challenge. The Smart Cities Challenge, organized by Infrastructure Canada, is a national competition encouraging municipalities and indigenous communities across Canada to develop innovative approaches to solving local problems through a smart cities approach. The City of St. John’s is applying for the prize of $10 million.
What is a smart cities approach, you ask? In simplest terms, a smart city is a community that integrates information and communications technology into its infrastructure to improve the quality of government and the wellbeing of residents. Happy City was engaged in this initiative because of our background in facilitating public dialogue in St. John’s, and to build on a growing conversation regarding mobility in St. John’s. When invited by Councillor Burton to participate in the public conversation throughout this process, we eagerly agreed.
The approach for public participation throughout this process was three-fold:
Broad public engagement: residents of St. John’s were consulted and this project was promoted through online channels, an online survey, and in-person consultation sessions which occurred in open sessions and more targeted groups;
Partnerships: community groups such as the Coalition for Persons with Disabilities NL, Choices for Youth, Stella Burry Community Services, Memorial University, SeniorsNL, and others, were engaged to consult and represent their constituents throughout this process. Consultation sessions were held with a number of community groups to provide a comfortable and open space to voice experiences and needs;
Challenge Committee: a group was formed including representatives from Happy City, community groups, the tech entrepreneur community, and citizen representatives, as well as city staff and municipal and provincial government representatives. This group was formed by active recruitment of groups and individuals with related expertise and interests, and through public calls for interested parties.
We have been amazed by the public response to this conversation!
What has developed throughout this process is a conversation around the intersection between public health and mobility in St. John’s. Public health is not traditionally within the jurisdiction of municipalities; but, one distinct way in which St. John’s can impact physical and mental health is by empowering residents to move more freely through the city. This is why a smart cities approach to an integrated mobility network has been proposed.
“Integrated mobility network” means creating a system that focuses on all the ways in which residents move around the city, and facilitating more inclusive, sustainable transportation. To take a smart cities approach is to use information and communications technology to analyse the ways in which people move, and implement a mobility network that utilizes smart technology to enable that movement.
The application is due Tuesday, April 24th.
Applications are adjudicated by a jury of experts across Canada, and five applicants for each level of prize are selected for phase 2. Those communities who are selected for phase 2 will be provided $250,000 to flesh out a final application throughout Fall 2018, with winners of each level of prize being selected in Spring 2019.
We are optimistic and look forward to seeing what conversations have occurred in other municipalities. Regardless of the outcome, be assured happy citizens, Happy City St. John’s will continue the momentum around the mobility conversation in St. John’s!