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Oshawa: a smart city?

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A new challenge from the federal government has a lot of cities putting their thinking caps on and looking to their local residents to help them get their hands on some serious cash.

Currently, the City of Oshawa is taking part in the Smart Cities Challenge hosted by Infrastructure Canada. Launched in 2017, it encourages municipalities to work with residents, businesses and other organizations to design projects that could address some of the most pressing issues facing cities using data and connected technologies.

“As a former city councillor, I know first-hand that local leadership understands best what their communities need. They are the first to hear about traffic congestion, trouble accessing services, or challenges with public transit,” states Amarjeet Sohi, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. “The Smart Cities Challenge will ask those leaders to team up with pioneering businesses, academia, and civic organizations to design innovative solutions to their most pressing challenges using data and connected technologies.”

Moving forward, ideas received will be reviewed and short-listed for phase two, which at that point project identification and selection will begin by mid-February.

And if you missed the boat on providing feedback the first time around, the city will once again open things up and allow the public to comment on the shortlisted projects. All of this information will be considered while the city puts together a final “challenge statement” that will be submitted to Infrastructure Canada.

“Oshawa’s participation in the Smart Cities Challenge signifies our commitment to address complex challenges with cutting-edge innovation,” says Councillor John Aker, the chair of the development services committee, adding that the challenges is a great opportunity for Oshawa to use “technology applications and data driven solutions.”

According to Kyle Benham, the city’s director of economic development, the federal government is setting it up in a way that they expect to see approximately 250 different applications come in from across Canada.

Following any proposal, an independent panel has been set up to analyze the applications. Short-listed communities will then be invited to further develop their proposal and businesses plan, an invitation that comes along with a $250,000 award to assist in the further planning.

Benham, in speaking to councillors, says this stage will be a much “deeper dive” into what the project would look like, and “how it’s going to sort of really roll out, and a lot more detail,” he says.

In the end, a series of five funding awards will be given to the winning municipalities, including one prize of $50 million, two prizes of $10 million (open to all municipalities with populations under 500,000 people) and one prize of $5 million (open to all communities with populations under 30,000 people).

For Oshawa Mayor John Henry, the city is already well positioned to take part in the challenge.

“Oshawa has proven throughout its ongoing transformation to be a tech-driven, education hub committed to investing in its infrastructure and our community,” he says. “I look forward to seeing what this collaboration proposes.”