When I served on the KW Community Foundation Board, I learned that “high school graduation” is a key statistic that predicts future well-being.  It is a sobering fact that you hit such a key turning point in your life, while in your teens.

Such an easy-to-understand fact yet there is no easy fix. It will be complex and costly.

In 2017, the federal government announced the Smart Cities Challenge so that communities would “improve the lives of their residents through innovation, data and connected technology”. The incentive? Prizes of $5M, $10M, and one of $50M!

Locally, we worked cooperatively to put in one bid regionally for the three cities and four townships. However, our population is just over the 500,000 mark, so we are competing for the big $50M against all other large Canadian cities.

In June, five finalists at the top level were announced: Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, Quebec City….and the Region of Waterloo! That achievement comes with a $250k prize to take our smart city proposal to the next step.

The challenge that we proposed to tackle using smart city technology, data and programs:

Improving child and youth wellbeing in three areas:

  1. Early child development
  2. Mental health
  3. High school graduation rates

Our idea stood out amongst the jury to place us in the top five in Canada.  I have the confidence that our community, if we receive the award, can make enormous steps forward on youth wellbeing.  And being a smart city, this initiative will be available to all communities across Canada.