Prepared to pivot – tips from Surrey, B.C.

Doug McCallum

Launched in response to a dwindling supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and a growing demand for made-in-Canada products, the award winning Surrey Makes PPE program helps Canadians combat COVID-19 by ensuring the availability of critical supplies. For Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, this hugely successful, one-stop-shop for locally-made protective and medical equipment is indicative of his city’s ability to pivot and innovate.

Speaking at Technicity West, a digital conference that assembled technology leaders in Western Canada on February 9, 2021, Mayor McCallum stressed the importance of Surrey’s commitment to citizen experience, technology adoption, and partnerships – especially during a global pandemic.

“It’s no secret that COVID-19 has created a sudden and significant surge in demand for digital services,” he said. “Guided by a smart city strategy, the city of Surrey was well equipped for serious digital transformation.”

McCallum describes innovation as a cornerstone of Surrey’s growth, saying this past year has been no exception. When public health orders asked people to stay at home, Surrey ramped up online services for residents and businesses, provided staff with remote access tools, and took meetings online. Not only did remote meetings protect city staff, but they also allowed residents to participate as they would have with in-person council meetings.

“We know that our residents’ expectations have risen to new heights as the result of private businesses like Amazon investing heavily in digital experiences,” said McCallum. “This has prompted all sectors, including government, to continually innovate.”

Despite the pandemic, Surrey responded to citizen needs and pushed forward in 2020 with the launch of a new city website. Built with the input of 1400 internal and external stakeholders, the customer-centric site has proven to be a highly valued source of information, providing reliable access to services for both residents and businesses.

In other initiatives, a convenient online permit application process now streamlines the customer experience and cuts wait times. Environmental priorities are also front and centre, with funding from all three levels of govern for 40 electric vehicle charging stations at 10 public sites across Surrey. Then there’s Surrey Makes PPE, which in addition to allowing many Surrey manufacturers to continue operating and retain staff, has generated over $11 million in PPE sales.

“Despite being in the midst of a pandemic, there is full confidence in Surrey,” says McCallum. “There is massive potential in building on a partnership approach. The bottom line is we are stronger together.”

Click here to watch Technicity West on demand! Registration required.

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Suzanne Robicheau
Suzanne Robicheau
Suzanne Robicheau is a communications specialist based in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where working remotely continues to fuel her passion for new mobile technologies -- especially on snowy days.

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