Smart city initiatives are now no longer just a part of the future. They are here and set to be a large part of everyday life.

That’s why the SAS Institute recently announced that it’s teaming up with the Institute on Governance (IOG), a not-for-profit which advises Canadian governments on governance at all levels, and three Canadian universities, to create the Government Analytics Research Institute (GARI) to provide governments the necessary resources to develop smart city services with the best practices possible.

At the root of smart city initiatives is AI, and as a natural extension of that, analytics.

“Governments inherently have masses and masses of data that they’ve been collecting over the years. And citizens are expecting their governments to use the data that they provide them to deliver better services to make better decisions,” said Tara Holland, the senior manager of government customer advisory at SAS Canada. “The reason that we’re partnering with IOG is to enable the policymakers and the program delivery arms of government in their use of data. The leadership is there. The intention is there. A lot of the infrastructure is there. But turning that into real delivery of analytics in an operational way is still not translated within all levels of Canadian government.”

GARI was founded with a three-year agreement and includes the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa, the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University, and the Université du Québec en Outaouais as collaborators. They will have three main goals: to facilitate research that governments can leverage in their analytics work, to provide resources for public bodies to conduct research and testing of their own, and to allow students at the three partner universities to advance their own work in public sector analytics work.

“The logic was, by combining academic researchers with industry folks, we can do research that matters. This perfect storm that we’ve created where everybody wins,” said Gregory Richards, the interim director executive EMBA for the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa. “I know that students are always looking for real projects. And what I hear from a lot of my colleagues in government, they have got projects that might be to them to seem experimental. Whereas to us, they might not necessarily be. And so to de-risk these projects for them, we have the students work with them to provide a proof of concept. And then for SAS, certainly they get some insight to what these organizations are struggling with.”

While the institution does not currently have any government funding, Holland said that one of the goals moving forward is to lobby for government grants.