The Smart Cities Challenge office recently released information on the Challenge participants and snippets from their applications. The CityInclusive team reviewed the data available and has several insights to share.
In total, 199 communities submitted application, either individually or as a group representing all provinces and territories, that amounts to a total of 130 applications.
The Challenge design worked: smaller communities responded overwhelmingly.
More than half of the applications were submitted by small cities/communities. The applicant community with the smallest size of population (185) is Riverhead, NL, which applied with other communities collectively for the $5 million dollar prize to address their aging demographics and declining economic activity.
*Small cities (population less than 30,000), medium-sized cities (population more than 30,000 and less than 500,000), metropolitan (population more than 500,000).
Cities joined forces to scale impact: there are a significant number of group applications.
There are 19 group applications. One is inter-provincial and includes Saint-Pierre-Jolys and La Broquerie from Manitoba, Saint-Quentin from New Brunswick, and Plessisville from Quebec. Their application states, “the problems faced by residents and their families [in small cities] are often very similar, regardless of where they live in Canada.”
There’s still a long way to go for increasing participation of First Nations communities.
Indigenous/First Nations communities either submitted an application individually, such as Moose Cree First Nation, or collaborated with other communities (both First Nations and non-First Nations) such as Delaware Nation at Moraviantown and Walpole Island First Nation.
Ambitious aims: a large number of small communities applied for a bigger prize.
*Infrastructure Canada announced three prizes: one prize of up to $50 million dollars, open to all communities regardless of population; two prizes of up to $10 million, open to communities with populations under 500,000 (i.e. small and medium-sized cities); and one prize of up to $5 million dollars, for communities with populations under 30,000 people (i.e. small cities).
Three small cities - Boisbriand, QC, Mount Pearl, NL and Town of Devon, AB - applied individually for the big prize of $50 million. Boisbriand and the City of Mount Pearl aim to establish a technology center, while the Town of Devon aims to pursue a very ambitious plan to become the first net-zero energy municipality in Canada.
Jobs, jobs jobs: communities in economically struggling provinces focused disproportionately on economic development.
The applications cover a variety of topics, ranging from aging demographics to unemployment, creating a of sense of belonging, youth engagement, affordable housing, food security, and renewable energy, among others.
Almost 40% of applications have emphasized economic opportunity as the main focus area. More than half of the applications from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick picked this focus area. This is not surprising, given their regional unemployment rates are all above the national average.
Building inclusive communities: mid-sized cities, on average, prioritized empowerment and inclusion projects.
Almost half of the small cities’ applications are related to economic opportunity. In terms of community systems and service areas, more than 70% of small city applicants mentioned ‘economic development’ as a priority.
Moreover, in total, almost half of all applications had empowerment and inclusion as one of the main focus areas. But medium-sized cities, on average, highlight relatively more empowerment and inclusion. This is quite telling. It suggests, perhaps, that as the size of the population increases, it becomes more and more difficult for communities to maintain their ‘sense of belonging’ and also sustain city-wide networks.
Big data and mobile applications came out as the top preferred technologies; autonomous vehicles the least.