Question 6 Answer
The root causes of the challenges we identified through our citizen engagement are transparency and effective engagement. By addressing these, we will have the ability to understand and solve not only newcomer inclusion and youth retention, but all other existing or future challenges. A solution that addresses these fundamentals will equip us to understand and collaboratively solve other ‘vertical’ challenges with residents. This will in turn help drive a greater sense of belonging, social cohesion and youth retention through participation.
We will achieve our goals not only through technical solutions but more importantly by transforming the way government works and delivers solutions in response to citizens’ needs. This reflects our belief that a smarter city requires a smarter government.
City as a Digital Ecosystem
Our planned activities aim to shape our city as a digital ecosystem that incorporates both digital capabilities and physical outreach to gather the needs of newcomers and youth and co-design solutions to address issues. Our solution will require an underpinning framework and methodology that defines the guidelines and ethos for engaging with citizens, collecting and interpreting data, acting on the findings, measuring and communicating success, and applying the lessons learned.
To achieve our goals, we have designed a program with six key activity packages:
- Understand the baseline and user needs
- Co-design solutions with citizens
- Incentivize participation in design and decision-making
- Provide experiences to showcase suggested improvements
- Increase the City’s accountability to implementing citizens’ ideas
6. Foster predictive planning and proactive city development
Creating a detailed methodology that outlines each of these steps is key to our long-term program because it will give us the capabilities to scale our pilot program with 500 newcomers and 500 young people to other parts of Brampton’s population and other cities in Canada. At the onset of the pilot, we will put in place measures to track how transformative each activity package has been to instill a greater sense of belonging, create more high-value jobs, and increase the level of engagement in shaping the city.
Activity package 1: Understand the baseline and user needs
Our first efforts will focus on reviewing existing data on the key needs and concerns of newcomers and the youth. In just one example of a newly arrived Syrian family to Brampton, we understand that their first need upon arrival is to find a job. Similarly, global research by Youthful Cities suggests that youth’s primary needs are to find employment and live affordably. With over 40% of youth aged 20-29 travelling outside of Brampton daily for work, it is the City’s priority to retain its young population. With the establishment of the Ryerson University campus, Brampton’s youth will be able to receive technical education and become part of a tech-forward city that enables digital (and other) businesses to set up and access high-value skills locally.
Gathering the needs of new residents and youth is the key starting point to ensure our program’s long-term success. We will therefore deploy solutions that make it easy for newcomers and youth to provide feedback, voice their needs and concerns in multiple languages. Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled solutions will help with translation between languages. Most feedback can be provided online or through devices in public spaces, such as libraries and community centres. We will create an online map where residents can make suggestions for improvements in specific locations, and provide opportunities for newcomers to engage with the City before arriving, for example by helping them find a job, connect them with existing residents, familiarize them with the streets through a virtual tour, etc. We will also explore innovative two-way communication methods.
When appropriate to achieving our goals, we will deploy fixed and mobile sensors that will produce millions of data points, traversing the system simultaneously and constantly. By aggregating all gathered city data securely and respecting personal privacy, an AI- and ML-enabled platform will give staff visibility of the city sentiments, detect patterns and trends, and predict and learn, in real time. This will enable a state-of-the-art real-time city planning intelligence that feeds on residents’ needs and ideas, and wider city data.
Activity package 2: Co-design solutions with citizens
A key aspect of creating a digital ecosystem is to provide opportunities for collaboration both amongst citizens and between the City and its citizens. Collaborative platforms will be opened as necessary to provide a digital environment for communicating on topics such as re-designing a neighbourhood, planning a culture festival, or showcasing local businesses. Online tools will be supplemented by physical spaces or hubs where new and existing residents, young and old, can meet to finalize their concepts.
Brampton’s award-winning GeoHub Portal currently provides a means for primarily one-way communication but it can be extended to provide a two-way engagement mechanism to connect government and the community around initiatives that matter. Building on existing successes, the extended GeoHub will allow us to expand our current outreach, monitor community engagement, and leverage the knowledge of our community participants to help solve complex problems with simple mapping tools as well as enhancing the data visualizations by utilizing virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) technologies. The online platform will allow people to pitch for funding to take the ideas forward. To award the best ideas, the City will judge both the quality of the application and its reflection of the diverse make-up of that specific community.
Activity package 3: Incentivize participation in design and decision-making
We will rally communities around positive change by encouraging citizens, businesses, and academics to participate on key initiatives. We will seek to create programs that reward those who contribute to City programs, engage in public debate and decision-making. By creating the Smart Brampton Points, citizens will collect points for participating in a debate, voting, organizing a local event, providing feedback or suggesting ideas for city improvement. Reward points can be used to pay for local activities, such as cultural events and sports activities. Leveraging youth will be crucial to achieving our vision by fostering intergenerational exchange of skills, e.g. digital literacy, to help our digital inclusion agenda.
Our incentivization program will be key to connecting new residents with the local culture and giving them the opportunity to showcase their home culture. For example, a food-sharing app can help neighbours connect and share a meal from each other’s culture, whilst collecting Smart Brampton Points for participating in the program. Similarly, English language speakers can provide lessons to a neighbour in exchange for a meal.
Activity package 4: Increasing the level of digital skills
Digital inclusion is key to ensuring that all citizens have equal access and ability to contribute to the design of public services. We will create programs and activities that raise new residents’ confidence with using digital. This will be an opportunity to connect our digitally savvy youth with those that feel less comfortable using digital, starting with newcomers and rolling out to existing residents. This will ensure that everyone has equal access to opportunities created by digital, such as higher-value jobs requiring higher technical or digital prowess. We will leverage existing and continue to expand Brampton’s part (300km of fibre) of Public Sector Network (PSN) and existing free WiFi infrastructure, whilst exploring new wireless and ultra-speed connectivity opportunities.
With the establishment of a new Ryerson University campus, in partnership with Sheridan College, in Brampton, local residents will have an immense opportunity to increase their education in digital skills. Ryerson is a cybersecurity and tech-focused university, supported by innovative and tech-focused business and community facilities, actively working with local partners to create a Centre for Innovation in Brampton.
Activity package 5: Increasing the City’s accountability to implementing citizens’ ideas
Past engagement data shows that residents felt that their inputs have not often led to clear or visible result in their community or that their views are not easily connectable to initiatives the city undertook. To address this, we will create a system of continuous improvement. All resident ideas will be amalgamated and the City departments will transparently assess which are feasible and which are not by providing constructive feedback to residents via the City Dashboard. Our AI- and ML-enabled platform will be able to accumulate real-time sentiment on issues, offer citizens options, recommendations, performance reports, etc. supported by real-time data – a transparent one-stop-shop for personalized services, city performance dashboard and a collaboration portal for connecting with the rest of the community through a variety of dynamic lenses. Imagine simply addressing the City through voice activated MI any time an idea comes up – “Hey Brampton, I’d like to see…”.
By allowing residents to experience the suggested changes to their environment, people can better understand the impact these might have on their daily lives. Visual representation is especially important for communicating with new residents on the occasions when language is a barrier to communication. Besides the usual food, dance and entertainment activities of public events, the City will provide new technological equipment at ‘Innovation Squares’ that will allow newcomers to share their culture through video, VR or AR. These hubs for cultural celebrations will showcase the innovation, stories, natural wonders and food from the home countries of new Bramptonians. VR and AR will be a perfect medium for residents to experience planned physical changes to the city and provide feedback.
Activity package 6: Foster predictive planning and proactive city development
Currently, policies are created in a public forum, according to statutory requirements that require holding public meetings to develop those policies. Turnout at meetings is low and the received feedback is limited. We want to make planning more intuitive using the capabilities of modern technology. AI will be used to analyze data submitted by residents about their needs and requirements. Our platform will analyze the discussions in the online collaborative groups through ML to understand key pain-points. By predicting early what a neighbourhood or street in Brampton needs, we will engage in proactive city development. This will prevent residents having to report concerns and issues and allow them to focus on more positive engagement with the City.
We will enable newcomers to record their needs before arriving to Brampton so we can capture the diverse requirements of people coming from different cultures and countries.
Creating open, scalable and transferable solutions
We will design enabling infrastructure (incl. 5G and LoRaWAN networks) that is flexible, long-term and future-ready. This will include physical assets, such as integrated infrastructure for trialling and deploying technology solutions at scale, data assets, and regulatory and legal frameworks to make collaboration possible. A key enabler of city-scale solutions will be having access to assets, both physical and digital. We will ensure that our and our partners’ assets are available for innovation.
Our program will be able to evolve throughout its lifespan, embracing new ideas and innovative solutions. As part of this ethos, we will ensure that all technological solutions that we implement are open and interoperable. Since we strive to trial innovative solutions to tackle challenges that many other cities face, we will openly share our stories of successes and failures to ensure that our learning spreads. We will follow our commitment to open data to share our City’s performance and progress against our goals.
To support scalability and replicability we will create new standards and adhere to existing ones to ensure that companies build replicable products and services. Since Brampton is well-placed in the 5G corridor that will be built between Ontario and Quebec, we can become a test-bed for 5G-enabled city technologies that we can pilot and transfer to other cities. As part of this, we propose to create and support a network of follower cities that can learn from Brampton’s experience. This will enhance collaboration between Canadian cities to scale the successful solutions and share stories of failure.
Finally, to ensure that the technology and data that we use is transferable, we will design a long-term plan for how our solutions will be used in the future and how they can evolve to meet the future needs of our residents.