Building Ontario’s Next-Generation Smart Cities through Data Governance: Fulfilling the potential of smart cities

How do we prepare for smart cities?

The emergence of data-intensive technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and supercomputing, provides us with opportunities to use and leverage this data to improve the lives of Ontarians and pursue new avenues for economic growth. However, the collection and use of data from public spaces raises issues of privacy, security, individual rights, and who should benefit from citizens’ data. In an everchanging digital landscape, policymakers are working to balance the varied interests of smart city collaborators and opportunities for innovation.

The final report in the smart-city data governance series from Compute Ontario and ORION summarizes their findings. It starts with the defining a smart city as well as highlighting the interests surrounding their deployment. It also spotlights current smart city implementations in municipalities across Ontario, including Stratford, Kingston, Sarnia, and Vaughan and identifies how they are making their communities better for their residents. The report then focuses on the roles of various smart city collaborators in supporting initiatives and informing data governance. Analyzing popular models of data governance including data principles, commons, collaboratives, and trusts, we hope that the report provides future smart city deployments with recommendations that offer both economic opportunities and improved quality of life for Ontario’s citizens.


Through the process of this report series, several major lessons have been learned about data governance:

  • Governance is not monolithic – There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to data governance. Each situation requires careful examination of stakeholders needs
  • All stakeholders have a unique role – stakeholders will have to work together to ensure the social benefits of smart cities can be leveraged and no one role should be diminished
  • Education and consultation are integral – emphasis needs to be placed on both educating the public and promoting collaboration and learning between stakeholders
  • Think near-term and long-term action – investments must be made in both the short term (education and awareness) and long term (pilot projects)
  • Modernize policy and law – a more agile approach to data regulation is needed to keep with the changing technology for smart cities
  • Ontario’s smart city ecosystem is fragmented – there is no single voice or organization leading smart city deployment and a framework is needed for deployment



This report has several recommendations for provincial smart city developers:

  1. Consider regulatory amendments to the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act so that health data can be used for municipal planning
  2. Implement and evaluate one of the data governance examples examined in this report
  3. Generate awareness of initiatives such as Evergreen and its Future Cities Canada partnership, the Open Cities Network and Intelligent Communities Forum which are working to build communities of experts to solve the smart cities challenges municipalities face
  4. Designate a not-for-profit organization as an overseer to take the lead in addressing the challenges surrounding data governance for smart cities

You can read the final report here.