Public participation and support played a big part in developing the challenge statement for Penticton’s Smart Cities Challenge, as at this OCP/Smart Cities event in January. Steve Kidd/Western News

Final steps for Smart Cities Challenge

Challenge statement going to Penticton city council for approval

After months of preparation, Penticton’s entry into the Smart Cities Challenge is just about ready to go.

City council unanimously approved the application at their April 17 regular meeting, including the challenge statement.

“Let’s build a physically and mentally healthier, strongly-connected Penticton where each person has access and opportunity to maximize their health potential.”

Related: Healthy Penticton is the theme for Smart Cities Challenge

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit questioned why financial health was not included as a factor. Keith MacIntyre, a member of the Smart Cities core team, said that had been considered.

“At one point we had the word prosperous in there, but we didn’t feel that was resonating,” said MacIntyre, explaining that in the end they felt financial health was linked to other factors already included like access to services — transportation improvements could lead to access to a better job, or simply not having to pay for a taxi to get to work, thus improving financial health.

MacIntyre, who was the key early driver of Penticton’s entry, said he had first thought they would be able to have the challenge statement ready by March.

“We realized this was the critical piece of the process. We had hours and hours of discussion on the statement.” said MacIntyre, adding that they eventually brought in a facilitator with experience developing challenge statements.

Another core team member, Megan Dimma, said the reaction in the community has already proved the worth of taking on the challenge, that it has sparked dsicussion and brought out the best in people.

“The community has really shown us we are on the right track,” said Dimma. “I believe Penticton is full of passionate, skilled and talented people who really love the community.”

Coun. Judy Sentes echoed the sentiment.

“Regardless of the outcome, we’ve already won,” said Sentes, praising how the Smart Cities group had fostered and nurtured communication.

Coun. Tarik Sayeed said the challenge entry takes Penticton one step closer to being a role-model city for Canada.

The Smart Cities Challenge was announced last fall, a national competition sponsored by the federal Ministry of Infrastructure and Communities, encouraging communities to develop new approaches to solving problems through innovation, data and connected technology. Penticton is competing for a prize of up to $10 million.

The group of community leaders working on the Smart Cities Challenge issued a statement that they are focused on working with the city to complete the application by the April 24 deadline.

“We are thrilled to have landed on our challenge statement which echoes the views of the community and lends itself well to technology solutions,” reads the statement.

The challenge proposes seven project areas to create a healthier Penticton: community connections; transportation: transit, biking; geographic information systems; internet of things (IoT); community-owned data; access to health and quality of life.

MacIntyre said the challenge statement accounts for the largest part of the entry; the project areas only account for 15 per cent.

“What they are looking for, at this point, is more high-level projects,” he said, explaining that detailed work comes when Penticton is shortlisted and receives a $250,000 grant for the next stage. That grant, he said, can be used for research, pilot projects and more to develop projects that meet the Smart Cities Challenge of designing innovative solutions to community challenges using data and connected technologies.

Community involvement plays a big role, both in the development of and the eventual success of Penticton’s entry. Along with gathering public input since January, the Smart Cities group has also worked with the city, integrating the project with the city’s work reviewing the Official Community Plan.

Related: Smart Cities process hitting the right notes

Physical and mental health came up repeatedly in the surveys and other interactions, leading to the Healthier Penticton theme.

The finalized submission will be made to Infrastructure Canada on April 24 after a thorough quality assurance review by business leaders Keith McIntyre, Nicholas Vincent and Louise Kozier along with City of Penticton project sponsors, chief financial officer Jim Bauer and director of development services Anthony Haddad.

Finalists are expected to be announced this summer. Once selected, finalists will receive a $250,000 grant to develop their submission and have until winter 2018/19 to complete their final submission for the $10 million prize. The winner is expected to be announced in spring of 2019.

Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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