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Waterloo Region is a $50M finalist for Canada's Smart Cities Challenge

Last Updated Jun 1, 2018 at 5:04 pm EDT

Photo courtesy of @SmartWatRegion TWITTER.

Waterloo Region’s bid to become a national benchmark for children’s health and wellbeing is on a shortlist for a $50 million prize.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the five finalists in the Smart Cities Challenge Friday morning, at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference in Halifax.

The region’s proposal is to develop data-driven programs that help young people.

“Quite often we think of technology as being related to manufacturing or to communications, but not necessarily social services or educational services,” says Regional Chair Ken Seiling.

The competition encourages communities to identify a social issue, and find an innovative way to solve it. Seiling says extensive public consultation revealed gaps in child and youth wellbeing.

Waterloo Region is already Canada’s fastest growing tech sector, so it only makes sense to marry our technology cluster with the kinds of services that improve early child development and support young people’s mental health, Seiling says.

In being named a finalist, the region receives a $250,000 grant to further develop its bid.

“We’ll be putting together a plan to see how technology, and the data we can get through technology, can help us design programs that will help kids,” he says. “We have to tell them exactly what we’re hoping to do, what programs we’re trying to put in place and how we’ll use it. The federal government will make the judgement in that point in time, whether we’re a winner or not.”

The winners will be announced next spring.

“Even if we aren’t one at the end of the day, this is driving great work for the community … What we gain out of this will be a way of doing better things for our community,” Seiling says. “I’m confident that we have the wherewithal and the knowledge and the expertise to put together a winning application.”