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Durham Region receives Smart21 Communities of the Year award

Durham Region has been recognized as one of the Smart21 Communities of the Year for 2021, which Durham Region’s Sandra Austin, director of strategic initiatives, says is a “positive step forward for Durham.”

The awards, presented by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), recognize the world’s leading municipalities that are successfully leveraging data and digital assets to develop inclusive and prosperous communities.

“Intelligent communities are more than technology and infrastructure. They are focused on solving problems that matter to residents,” says Austin, nothing this is at the “heart” of Durham Region’s Intelligent Communities work.

“Being recognized as one of the top Smart21 Communities is a positive step forward for Durham, and highlights all of the hard work, commitment and innovation underway across the region,” she adds.

This recognition builds on the region’s Intelligent Communities Framework, which was developed in 2020, and is a “great motivator for expanding and growing this work in 2021,” according to the region, noting Durham’s goals over the next year include establishing a Community Advisory Committee to create a channel for regular engagement with community partners and the public.

This committee will also play a key role in developing processes to trial innovation, share data and formalize collaborations.

Some of the intelligent initiatives currently underway in Durham include CityStudio Durham, a collaborative partnership between local post-secondary institutions and Durham Regional Police Service; myDurham 311, aimed at improving the customer experience across all regional channels for a consistent, convenience and customized experience with a clear point of contact; the COVID-19 Data Tracker, the method used to keep the public informed of the risk of COVID-19 and aware of cases in the community; and OCI SmartCity Challenge a partnership with the Ontario Centre of Innovation and Spark Centre that challenged small and medium-sized enterprises to provide a solution to using smart home devices to interact with regional services.

Durham’s CAO Elaine Baxter-Trahair says the region is “committed to creating a more connected, inclusive and sustainable region,” noting the Intelligent Communities framework is helping to ensure that goal.

“Advancing intelligent initiatives like our plans to expand broadband, will enhance residents’ quality of life and play a critical role in generating employment opportunities and economic growth in Durham,” she says.

According to Regional Chair John Henry, Durham’s innovation community ensures the region remains globally competitive.

“Our region is home to an emerging technology cluster that includes several of Canada’s fastest growing technology companies and local business leaders that come together to drive innovation and growth,” he says. “With a mix of both urban and rural communities, our Intelligent Communities work together to provide exceptional service to residents and businesses using data-driven approaches.”