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Vancouver’s digital strategy awarded

Key outcomes include the mobile app VanConnect that allows citizens to perform almost all of their city-related transactions

Vancouver has also been shortlisted in Canada's Smart Cities Challenge
Vancouver has also been shortlisted in Canada's Smart Cities Challenge

The Canadian city of Vancouver has won a national award for its digital strategy. It won the large public sector transformation category in the 2018 IT World Canada Digital Transformation Conference and Awards.


Vancouver is the first city in Canada to develop and implement a digital strategy and the first to hire a chief digital officer. The four-year strategy, implemented in 2013, has enabled the city to go from having low digital maturity relative to other global cities to being a template and model for cities around the world looking to take their digital footprint to the next level.


“People, businesses and governments around the world are grappling with emerging technologies and the pace of technological change”, says Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Through the city’s digital strategy, we’ve been able to leverage and embrace technological innovation to better deliver services to residents and provide them with tools to more actively engage and participate in local government.”


The city’s multi-year digital strategy focuses on four pillars:

  • engagement and access
  • digital economy
  • digital assets and infrastructure
  • organisational maturity.

Each pillar has a unique goal, objectives, and actions which were distilled from many ideas contributed by businesses, social service providers, citizens, and staff.


Mobile city app for citizen transactions


A key outcome from the strategy was the launch of VanConnect in 2015, a mobile app that allows users to view and access information about various city programmes and services from anywhere, at any time. Residents can perform almost all of their city-related transactions online through the app with a connected device.


The app has been downloaded over 40,000 times with over 100,000 service requests submitted to the city by people, using the app.


“Through the city’s digital strategy, we’ve been able to leverage and embrace technological innovation to better deliver services to residents"


The city also launched #VanWiFi in 2015 giving the public access to free public wi-fi at an initial 43 civic locations. Recently, the city expanded coverage to more than 550 locations citywide, making VanWiFi one of the largest free public wi-fi networks in North America. #VanWifi was a core objective of the digital strategy and has been accessed by more than 280,000 users in 2017 alone.


With the foundation of the digital strategy in place, the city will continue to enhance digital connections and advance the city’s internal and external digital maturity through projects in connectivity, access to data, and interoperability. These projects will strive to increase will help to transform Vancouver into a smart city.


Smart Cities Challenge


Currently, the cities of Vancouver and Surrey are shortlisted for a chance to win $50 million dollars for their joint submission to Infrastructure Canada for the Smart Cities Challenge.

The submission aims to deliver a model for Canadian cities and to ultimately position Canada as a global autonomous vehicle and smart mobility leader. The proposal identifies two collision-free corridors that will be equipped with smart mobility solutions related to:

  • autonomous shuttles
  • smart mobility infrastructure
  • advanced data and analytics
  • enhanced user experience.

Finalists will now develop fully-implementable final proposals with the winners to be announced by spring 2019.


In a separate initiative, Vancouver has also taken a significant step towards achieving its goal of using 100 per cent renewable energy sources by entering into a new fuel contract with Suncor. With this new contract, all of the city’s diesel vehicles will transition to 100 per cent renewable diesel, reducing emissions to 50 per cent below 2007 levels by the end of next year.


“This new contract concretely demonstrates our commitment to greening our operations and deriving 100 percent of our energy from renewable sources,” says Jerry Dobrovolny, general manager of engineering services. “This shift in fuel, in conjunction with the ways we are optimising and electrifying our fleet, proves that we are walking the talk and finding innovative ways to respond to climate change and its devastating impacts.”


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