‘Smarter Cities’ wraps up challenge


(Photo by Kha Vo)

The City of Waterloo has earned a grant from the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, which aimed to address some of the critical challenges facing cities.

Waterloo first earned the sponsorship one year ago and is amongst 31 cities world-wide to be a part of the program.

Now, IBM specialists from various regions around the globe will evaluate and explore how to improve the Northdale area and the growth of Waterloo.

“The idea behind this is to allow cities to share their challenges and learn from best practices from other cities,” said Joanne Fortin, the public relations practitioner for IBM Canada.

“All the cities in the world are faced with barrier challenges, water management, growth populations and the capacity of housing and development,” she said. “It’s our way on looking forward and seeing how we can fix complex problems.”

IBM first came to Waterloo on Oct. 21 and are currently in their final week of the project.

In July, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) approved a “community improvement” strategy for Waterloo’s Northdale neighbourhood, with the vision to clean up the area and make it more multi-functional.

This Smarter Cities Challenge is just another way to address some of the issues coming from Northdale and draw out some solutions.

“Waterloo’s got two incredible universities, you’ve got leadership centers, start-up companies, so there’s a lot of activity in all of this,” Fortin said. “And we were asked to look at all of this and come back with some recommendations and some findings and see if there are any areas of improvements; really seeing what’s out there that could help out.”

The Smarter Cities Challenge started in 2010 with the plan to help 100 cities worldwide improve their communities.
IBM works closely with city leaders to deliver recommendations on how to make the city “smarter and more effective.”

Waterloo is now amongst top cities from Africa, Asia, Europe, America and Oceania who have all been helped with economic development, environmental issues, social services, transportation and urban planning.

The program has also recently announced that they will be expanding their services for an additional three years.

“We want to give back what everybody gave back,” Fortin said.
IBM was out on the Veteran’s Green Park Friday afternoon doing some yard maintenance and cleaning. This was intended to help promote the Smarter Cities Challenge and demonstrate the initiative that is taking place.

“Really helping restore the beauty of the park,” said Dennis Bly, the IBM Academic Initiative Relationship Manager on Friday, on the purpose of the initiative.
Bly explained the importance of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge.

“Not just physically improving the community, but bringing the community together,” he said.

IBM will be delivering some of their comments on Nov. 6 at RIM Park. A report will be presented to Waterloo Mayor, Brenda Halloran, explaining how the city can create an action plan for the Northdale neighbourhood.
“It gives the chance for everybody to be on the same page, remain with the city and see how they can develop knowing all of this,” Fortin said.

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