ICF names Grey County a Top7 2017 intelligent community
As a rural county, Grey is faced with many challenges trying to keep up with the digital world. With four people per square kilometre, broadband connectivity can be a challenge, but there are students, businesses, and families relying on connectivity to thrive.
The largest initiative in Grey County that makes them one of the smartest communities in Canada is the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology project (SWIFT). Grey County is one of 15 members of the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (WOWC), which developed the SWIFT initiative. The project aims to bring fibre-optic connectivity to homes and businesses across the region.
I worked with WOWC to launch SWIFT in 2011. The first stage of the project was to build a local awareness campaign while developing the logistics of a fibre rollout. The goal was to receive funding from municipal, provincial, and federal governments.
Last year, it was announced that SWIFT would receive $180 million in funding from the provincial and federal governments, with additional funding from participating municipalities. The announcement of support from all three levels of government will surely encourage further funding from Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
The advancement of SWIFT will go a long way in supporting other Grey County initiatives, including the Launch Pad Youth Activity and Technology Centre, as well the the Ag 4.0 program.
The Launch Pad opened in 2015, servicing Grey and Bruce residents. For many, this is the only location where advanced technology and digital skill training can be accessed. Due to high demand, Launch Pad is already undergoing a $200,000 renovation to accommodate more members.
Ag 4.0 is an initiative aiming to connect businesses with technical and creative professionals to encourage and support a more innovative agricultural industry. The agriculture and food industry is the largest employer and contributor to local GDP in Grey County, so it is crucial that businesses have access to smart technology that allows them to compete on a national and international scale.
Congratulations to everyone involved in SWIFT and the members of the Grey County community that are working to improve the area’s economy and family lifestyle!