SAINT JOHN – Enterprise Saint John is hoping to turn the port city into Canada’s “most connected community” with the launch of its new Smart & Connected Community Data Strategy.
The strategy, launched on Thursday, includes improving the wifi connection in Saint John’s uptown core and building a data repository and storage centre (the Saint John Data Centre) that will collect community and business data in one place to be analyzed and shared. The plan also includes creating infrastructure and an “ecosystem” for researchers and using advanced R&D and commercialization to increase productivity in Saint John’s existing businesses while also attracting more direct foreign investment.
The strategy will be managed by Enterprise Saint John, with an advisory board made up community members and data experts from CISCO, Bell Aliant, T4G, Rogers, University of New Brunswick, EY and the City of Saint John.
“The strategy has been developed, now it’s about finding partners who want to be engaged, what kind of data can we get access to, how do we get access to the data and then we’re going to build a database where we can share that information,” says Cathy Simpson, vice-president of T4G.
“We’re going to need private sector partners and public sector partners who have problems that can be solved because we have those sorts of devices throughout our city and we can start collecting data and start analyzing that to solve those problems.”
Simpson says the new strategy will not only help already established businesses in Saint John grow, but it will also help attract new business and talent to the area.
“One of our biggest problems is talent. So if we can find talent that comes to our city, the result ends up being more projects, more funding, more ideas, more collaborations and it results in investment,” she says. “If I’m a data scientist, I want to come to a community with other data scientists … We believe this type of investment is going to attract businesses and people who want to innovate with data.”
The Government of Canada is providing Enterprise Saint John with a non-repayable contribution of $1,151,780 through ACOA’s Innovative Communities Fund. The provincial government is giving $100,000 while Enterprise Saint John is investing $110,248. Cisco is contributing $200,000, while Bell Aliant is providing $60,000. This brings the project investment to over $1.6 million.
The data centre is expected to be completed by early 2018. From there, Enterprise Saint John CEO Steve Carson says the other phases of the strategy will start moving quickly.
“The world is moving very quickly and it’s going to be the communities that are on the forefront of this that are going to get the biggest economic benefit and impact,” he says. “Right now, we’re at the forefront of this and so we don’t want to take our foot off the gas.”