Smart Cities Governance Lab: Achieving a more connected community together

The ever-evolving internet of things and our ability to collate and interpret increasing amounts of data bring with it the opportunity to leverage information to build better products and services. Data collected through connected devices can be applied to develop solutions in the sectors like healthcare, traffic, inclusive infrastructure and technology, among others, that can help build a smart city. The recent Smart Cities awards by Infrastructure Canada further demonstrates our belief in the potential of smart cities to transform the way we live and work; and to help build a better future for all Canadian residents. Of equal importance is the need to protect the privacy and rights of individuals who reside in increasingly digital enabled communities. Both the federal government and the provincial government have announced plans for data and digital consultations to better inform policy approaches that facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of data governance to effectively enable social and economic benefits.

With similar considerations in mind, Compute Ontario and ORION Network hosted a Smart Cities Governance Lab on March 28, 2019, at Catalyst 137 in Kitchener, Ontario. The Lab convened 125+ stakeholders from provincial and federal governments, policymakers, researchers, technologists, academics, and citizens to discuss and ideate on smart cities and its emerging issues.

The morning featured discussions and a panel with thought leaders such as Andy Best, Dr. Srinivasan Keshav, Francis Bilodeau, Sean MacDonald, Bianca Wylie, Ryan Androsoff among others who shared their insights on how the intersection of technology and policy can help build better communities while navigating the pitfalls that might arise from the exhaustive use of personal and public data. Some of the key issues discussed were open technology architecture, emerging technologies such as blockchain and their potential to solve infrastructural problems while maintaining individual privacy, how citizens and industry can benefit from a data-led economy, civil rights in a digital society, the federal government’s commitment to supporting digital transformation and an increasing need to promote digital literacy. The afternoon featured an interactive workshop designed to harness the experience of experts in the room by focusing conversations around three use cases which showcased data governance models used elsewhere in the world to enable smart city initiatives. Leveraging the Pittsburgh Principles, the Silicon Valley Data Trust, and the DECODE project from Barcelona participants identified aspects of the models they viewed as valuable within the context of Ontario. The participants were also asked to self-identify preset stakeholder roles, create a smart cities solution of their choosing, and highlight the challenges and opportunities associated with implementing their solution. These activities resulted in sharpened insights on the application of various governance models and ways in which each stakeholder group can use their strengths to build smart cities that are secure, collaborative, and innovative. Key findings from the Lab included:

  1. Smart cities start with informed citizens – citizens require education and tools to make informed decisions and set the vision for city futures;
  2. Smart cities are open cities – collaboration and transparency are vital to building trust within the community to facilitate a more free flow of data; and
  3. Smart city data needs trusted stewards – there is value in knowledgeable and neutral organizations governing data.

Read the full report here for all the details from the Smart Cities Governance Lab and watch videos from the event here.