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Participants at Future Cities Forum. Photo by Christopher Snow.

What is next for Ottawa’s future as a Smart City?

By Andrew Monro on July 11, 2018

Andrew Monro is Apt613’s correspondent at Impact Hub Ottawa, writing about the many innovators that call Hub home. Hub is a co-working space at 123 Slater Street for projects with a positive local and global impact.

What exactly are “Smart Cities?” While there are many definitions, the term often refers to the concept of local governments using technology and data to make more informed decisions to deliver better services to residents. It’s easy to think of the ways technology can make our day-to-day lives in the city more convenient, but people are now more attentive to the potential negative effects for society as well. With so much at stake, there has been little community dialogue and awareness about what smart cities are and how technology could improve (or deteriorate) the lives of the people who inhabit them.

Earlier this year, Impact Hub Ottawa and Artengine decided to do something about that and hosted the Future Cities Forum, which brought together hundreds of citizens and young civic leaders. The main motivation was a realization that while our cities are increasingly powered by technology, most of us have little knowledge or understanding of how these technologies work, or the influence they have on our culture and society. The organizers released a Summary Report following the event which presents a different take on smart cities, with five key ideas to consider for anyone working to turn their community into a smart city.

Future Cities Forum keynote speakers event. Photo by Christopher Snow.

The Forum took place during the Government of Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge, a competition between communities across the country to determine who can make the best use of data and connected technologies to address their most pressing problems. The City of Ottawa was among the competitors for the top $50 million prize, and insights from the Forum helped shape its proposal that focused on increasing employment, skills training, health and well-being, and civic participation for our city’s young people.

Unfortunately, we failed to make the list of finalists. Despite this, our participation in the competition demonstrated a commitment across government, businesses, and the community to making Ottawa a safer, healthier, and more liveable city. But now we are left with the question, “So, what’s next?”

As we approach a municipal election later this year, this is the perfect time to have an informed chat with your neighbours and candidates running for public office about the role of technology in our city and its effects — both good and bad — on our lives, and what kind of smart city we might aspire to live in . As the report notes, we need smart leaders and smart citizens if we are to truly become a smart city.

Impact Hub Ottawa and Artengine would like to acknowledge the support of its partners for making the Future Cities Forum possible: the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, the National Capital Commission , Future Cities Canada, Deloitte, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, Cities for People, Community Knowledge Exchange, and Invest Ottawa.