The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the way things are done in the City of Edmonton, challenging traditional approaches and testing financial fitness. According to Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, it has also presented a fantastic opportunity to get creative and innovate.
“The pandemic effect has extended into how municipal services are delivered and how citizens interact with their government,” stated Iveson, speaking on February 9th, 2021 at Technicity West, a digital conference that assembled technology leaders in Western Canada. “It has forced us to think about the citizen-centric open government work that was underway prior to COVID-19 and to find new and interesting ways of applying that open government spirit to meet the demands of Edmontonians.”
Iveson is proud that Edmonton is building a name for itself in the world of open data and the use of transparent data-driven decision making. “We’re considered the leader in Canada and North America on this front,” he said. “Not only do we strive to use data to guide internal decision making, we also make significant city data open to the public because we recognize there’s tremendous value in the perspectives and expertise and even the oversight of private citizens, researchers, and organizations.”
During the pandemic, Edmonton has tracked staff working from home to determine how much greenhouse gas they avoid emitting by not commuting. Using that data, city staff then talk to citizens about the impact that everyone’s commute has on the community’s carbon footprint.
In order to supply homeowners with the data required to assess an investment in solar energy, Edmonton partnered with Google Earth and an Alberta company called MyHEAT to make a publicly available map showing the solar potential of nearly every rooftop in the city. According to Iveson, this helps building owners understand their solar potential as well as the environmental and financial advantages.
A presence felt on the world stage
Because innovation plays a crucial role in shaping a diverse, resilient, and creative economy, Edmonton recently repositioned the city’s suite of innovation and entrepreneurship supports under one new agency called Innovate Edmonton. A startup and venture catalyst, it provides support for Edmonton’s entrepreneurs, businesses, universities and cultural organizations.
From Iveson’s perspective, by helping the innovation economy grow, Edmonton positions itself more strongly on the global stage in this area. “Every dollar we invest in innovation and collaboration with our external partners pays off manyfold,” he said. “We have always been innovators and problem solvers, and now we are using our technological expertise and problem-solving capacity to find more economically efficient and environmentally responsible ways to power our province and the country.”
Although most people think of Edmonton as the heart of the energy industry of the north, Iveson contends that the city’s highly respected education ecosystem is just as significant. “We are key to producing the talent that the changing economy needs,” he told his Technicity West audience. “Our ability to innovate by embracing technology will have a significant impact on this city’s success. It has in the past and it will in the future, especially in our ability to recover post-pandemic.”