City submits $50M infrastructure proposal for Smart Cities Challenge

New technology allows the city to learn a lot more about residents and their habits. The city already collects massive amounts of open data but federal funding could put that data to use in a completely different way.

The final proposal that could mean $50 million for the City of Edmonton was sent off Tuesday

Wendy Gnenz, chief information officer with the City of Edmonton, talks about the final proposal for the Smart Cities Challenge. (John Shypitka/CBC)

City officials hope a $50-million federal grant through the Smart Cities Challenge can help Edmonton make better decisions about future infrastructure.

The city has been working for more than a year to create a plan that would focus on using data to make infrastructure decisions based on solid information, rather than forecasting.

"We already have the data," Mayor Don Iveson said. "The question is can you build apps around it? Can you make different urban planning or infrastructure investment decisions using that data? And can we track progress over time to actually say are we improving population health?"

The information collected is not only valuable to the city but can be used by individuals and non-profit organizations as well. The city already posts all the data it collects to its Open Data portal.

Edmonton sent off its final Smart Cities proposal on Tuesday. The city and four other municipalities were selected last year as finalists for the $50-million grand prize. The other finalists are Quebec City, Surrey, the Waterloo region and Montreal.

A number of cities have identified collecting health data as a priority, something Edmonton has been collecting already.

"We have a great working relationship through our 'health city' initiative working with Alberta Health Services on data-driven solutions as well," Iveson said. "And we have a great community of technology and health care delivery experts here who want to make a difference in people's lives."

Chief information officer Wendy Gnenz said the city is cautious with the information it collects. City officials have regular conversations with the office of the information and privacy commissioner.

Smart Cities Challenge team members celebrate the submission of the final proposal at city hall. (Tricia Kindleman/CBC)

"We outlined all of our frameworks and steps that we are taking to ensure that we are meeting the legislative requirements," Gnenz said, "Our first phase is strictly going to use open data, and none of the data that we will be using is personally identifiable."

Proposals will go before a panel of 13 judges in Ottawa, with a winner expected to be chosen in May.


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