The Government of Canada recently announced the launch of the Smart Cities Challenge. This bold new initiative encourages communities to address local, everyday issues through the use of data and connected technology.1 The goal of the project is to solve the problems that community residents face by providing an implementation platform. Overall, the program is intended to provide Canadians with meaningful results of problem-solving processes. Individual communities will set their priorities and identify the results they wish to achieve, and are encouraged to work with private and non-profit sectors and the research community in doing so.

The advantage of the smart city approach is that it can be adopted by communities of any size, whether they are municipalities, Indigenous communities or local governments, and all communities are welcome to participate in the Smart Cities Challenge. Deadlines for submissions close April 24, 2018. Finalists will receive a $250,000 grant to support their proposal. Winners will receive further funding, with a grand prize of up to $50 million.2

The Smart Cities Challenge is part of a broader trend across Europe and North America as governments and communities attempt to make their cities “smarter.” This urban initiative has already taken root in Toronto: the Sidewalk Toronto project is designing a new neighborhood in Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront in an attempt to provide new strategies for tackling the challenges of urban growth. The Sidewalk Toronto project is an attempt to develop under-utilized urban land by planning sustainable communities that serve the needs of diverse populations in a way that improves the standard of life for urban populations.3

The Smart Cities Challenge is part of the Government of Canada’s Impact Canada Initiative, which is intended to promote the development and establishment of innovative programs that can assist in addressing “complex economic, environmental and social problems.”4