If you have a great and innovative idea for using technology to benefit the residents of Chatham-Kent, there’s a chance it could garner tens of millions of dollars.
A group of local citizens and organizations have embarked on Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge, through Infrastructure Canada. The competition includes a top prize of up to $50 million to a community of any size and two prizes of up to $10 million for communities under $500,000, that come up with ideas to improve the lives of residents through innovation, data and connected technology.
Local residents Maureen Geddes, Terrence Johnson and Karen Debergh, initiated the effort through the Facebook group Citizen Coalition. It has since grown to include representatives from the Wallaceburg Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Chatham BIA, St. Clair College, the municipal and provincial government, Abstract Marketing and Your TV.
Having studied big data and artificial intelligence and some of the technology implications it has, Geddes said, “I don’t want us all thinking that artificial intelligence comes and takes our jobs. “The reality is we can anticipate where all this innovation is happening and how to use it and create more jobs,” she added.
Johnson said an important aspect of technology is mining the data it can provide and use it to identify where and how citizens want services delivered, as well as make it available. “If we want to raise the game in Chatham-Kent, we need to make sure the data is in the hands of the municipality and its citizens,” he said.
However, Johnson added it is also important to be “privacy conscious” when collecting data. Chatham Coun. Darrin Canniff said being innovative will be key to being successful in receiving some of this funding. “If we can come up with something no one else on Earth is doing, we’re more likely to get the funding,” he said.
Geddes said a public meeting is being held in Chatham-Kent council chambers on Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the public is encouraged to attend and offer their ideas. She added it is fine if people just want come and listen in order to learn more.
The deadline for submitting a Smart Cities Challenge application is April 24. With the rapid advance of technology today, Geddes believes society is at juncture similar to when the automobile was invented, which had its doubters.
She recalled her grandfather told her many people thought, “they’ll never make that horseless carriage work. “Those aren’t the people we’re going to bring to the table on this.” Geddes said the goal is to bring “the best minds together” who care about the community and finding innovative ways to improve Chatham-Kent for all citizens.
More details about the Smart Cities Challenge, and the opportunity to provide input, is available online at www.letstalkchatham-kent.ca/smart-cities-challenge .