The City of Prince Rupert successfully pitched a plan through B.C. Smart Communities to interact with citizens through an online-engagement platform. (Pixabay photo)

City scores grant for online-engagement platform

Prince Rupert received a $22,000 grant from the B.C. Smart Communities program

The City of Prince Rupert is looking to improve civic engagement through an online platform to improve policy-making.

On Nov. 8, the B.C. government announced the four communities receiving a grant through its Smart Communities pilot project.

Prince Rupert’s proposal garnered $22,120 to develop an online engagement platform. The project is intended to give residents another place to voice their thoughts and concerns on municipal projects, such as infrastructure, city budgets and official community plans.

The city’s proposal was to use an online-engagement platform. The platform will be used to conduct public engagements for key issues such as the renewal of the Official Community Plan and other initiatives, as a way to build on and modernize the way we connect with the public, said communications manager, Veronika Stewart.

She added that the city is seeking quotes from online engagement platforms prior to selecting one. PlaceSpeak is an example of a platform that was used regionally by the North Coast Regional District (NCRD) earlier this year.

“We found it to be a useful tool when it comes to consultations and citizen engagement. We did use it for our 2018-2022 financial planning process and also used the platform when we were looking at land use planning bylaws for Electoral Area A and C,” said Daniel Fish, corporate officer for NCRD.

Although the regional district won’t be renewing their subscription with PlaceSpeak this year, Fish said “It’s a very valuable took for local government that has more staff capacity in its office to manage the platform.”

This year, the city has made headway with its technology and online systems. In the spring, the city launched an app and an emergency notification system, a business development website in May and in August, the city refreshed its website.

READ MORE: City launches its own app and emergency notification system

“Smart technology can place useful information at people’s fingertips to make our neighbourhoods safer and our lives more efficient,” said Bruce Ralston, minister of jobs, trade and technology in the press release. “Small communities should not be left apart from innovation, and our government is taking action to ensure smart solutions are developed around the province to help make life better for everyone.”

B.C. Smart Communities pilot is aimed at smaller districts and rural cities that require better access to data and technology. The program encourages municipalities to use innovative technology to work with its challenges. Grants up to $40,000 were available to municipalities and First Nations with populations under 30,000.

The provincial grant is also going to the District of Logan Lake, $38,650; the City of Port Alberni, $28,800; and the municipalities of Castlegar, Nelson, Rossland and Trail will receive a total of $40,000 for a joint proposal.

“The B.C. Smart Communities pilot program is dedicated to supporting people living in smaller centres and rural areas, helping them access technology that will enhance their lives,” said Shirley Vickers, president and CEO of Innovate BC, the Crown agency distributing the winning grants. “The successful projects represent modern solutions to local problems and will help benefit people where they live.”

Prince Rupert’s proposal was evaluated by a panel that based its project on whether it met the definition of a “smart community, addressed a local need, had consulted with residents and whether the initiative could be accomplished within a one-year time frame,” the press release stated.

The proposals had to touch on one of the five themes: citizen engagement, efficient transportation, economic diversity and growth, energy efficiency and climate action.

READ MORE: City launches business development website

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