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SWEA Spearheads Intelligent Region Initiative in Southwestern Ontario

Intelligent Region Initiative starts with
Community Engagement & Benchmarking

Following over a year of planning, the SWEA Intelligent Region Initiative is set to launch officially on March 3. The first phase of the project, expected to last a full year, will involve public education, community engagement and benchmarking. It is expected that 12 SWEA member municipalities will participate in this phase.

Made possible through a Jobs Creation Partnership grant from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, the work will involve 30 community engagement coordinators located in the host municipalities. Their role will be to build community support for the strategic use of information and communications technologies as a means of driving economic development and more productive municipal and community services. They will be guided by a team of three team leaders working in partnership with officials from each host community. The SWEA teams will also prepare each community for an extensive benchmarking exercise to be undertaken by the Smart and Connected Communities unit of Cisco Systems Inc.  The unit is based in Lima, Peru and will use the community engagement team to collect and validate local data and coordinate on the ground interviews.

The SWEA community engagement team will also work closely with the coordinators of the SWIFT broadband initiative recently launch by the Western Ontario Wardens' Caucus. WOWC recently took delivery of a feasibility study for the construction of an ultra high speed fibre optic broadband network for Southwestern Ontario. Just this past weekend, members of WOWC approved the next phase in the preparations for this network.

SWEA and WOWC are giving briefings to senior government officials in support of the network and its economic development potential. This includes joint meetings at the OGRA/ROMA conference this week in Toronto. Based on its research, both SWEA and WOWC are convinced that Southwestern Ontario is at risk of being left behind in the new global economy if it doesn't immediately upgrade its broadband networks and work with communities and businesses to use the available ICT tools strategically.

As SWIFT project lead Lance Thurston stated in a recent interview, its all about equalizing opportunities “whether you live in downtown London or Bruce County,” SWEA describes the impact similarly. “It’s not just about faster Netflix or Facebook. It’s about applying information technology and communications to everything we do in economic development in Southwestern Ontario,”

SWEA has begun the hiring process for the project team. The individual community engagement coordinators will be hired in a process that begins in mid March. It is anticipated that the team will start the community benchmarking in late May or early June.

Interested communities can still contact SWEA for further details about involvement in the project.

SWEA, 75 Locust Street, St. Thomas, Ontario N6R2C3