Andy Best: Open Government Manager, City of Guelph
The Civic Accelerator aims to help make Guelph a player in the burgeoning civic tech sector. It launched earlier this year to enable the City to engage in “open innovation” with entrepreneurs, startups, students and companies to create solutions for complex municipal challenges.
“It has turned the City of Guelph into a research and development lab for civic tech companies seeking to develop and commercialize new products,” says Andy Best, the City of Guelph’s Open Government Manager. Best explained that the program is a new way of tackling old problems, and has a number of goals:
- To provide City staff with access to cutting-edge solutions that can improve both internal operations and services to the public;
- To bring experimentation and prototyping into normally rigid purchasing processes to help City staff make the best decisions to address complex issues;
- To provide a mutually beneficial development experience for City departments and the private sector;
- To encourage the development of a civic tech hub in Guelph.
In July, the winning bids were announced for the Civic Accelerator’s first two “challenges.”
Alert Labs won the water challenge with a proposal for real-time customer alerts for emergencies like floods or leaks, using data from sensors that require zero technical skill to install. “We want to make it as easy as possible to give our water customers real time water usage data for their homes, which can be crucial to flood detection and prevention, as well as to enable the behavioural change that can support Guelph’s significant water conservation goals,” Best says.
Milieu won the planning notifications challenge with a proposal for a web and mobile application that connects citizens, urban developers and City officials in order to collectively work toward creative and evidence-based planning decisions.
In September, Alert Labs and Milieu began working with City employees and Accelerator partners to build, refine and test their solutions, honing their products in the hopes of selling them to Guelph as well as to the broader civic tech market.
“We are midway through the embed period and the two projects are proceeding very well, with lots of excitement and energy on both sides,” Best says.
The work will culminate in a demo day in December after which the City will decide if it is making a formal purchase of these potential solutions.