Smart Cities

The Issue

Municipal governments are increasingly turning to comprehensive electronic data collection as a purported means to increase the quality of both public services and the lives of their residents. So-called “smart cities” aim to make pervasive use of data from information and communication technologies to shape every aspect of urban life. The smart city concept is predicated on ubiquitous wireless broadband and the embedding of computerised sensors widely in as many aspects as possible of our public and private spheres.

Why It Matters

Championed by large technology companies and embraced, often uncritically, by well-intentioned politicians and government staff, the “smart cities” approach is dependent on a vast network of sensors -- millions of electronic ears, eyes and noses – that make possible widespread and permanent surveillance by whomever has access to the data.  This raises questions of privacy but even more importantly questions of the public’s right and ability to govern what data are collected, how they are used, and who owns and controls them.

Our Work

The Centre has created the Toronto Open Smart Cities Forum. Our role is to provide information and analysis, undertake public education, and foster public discussion, openness and transparency with respect to Toronto’s new “smart city” initiative – Sidewalk Toronto– a joint initiative of Google’s Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto– the federal/provincial/municipal body responsible for overseeing the development of Toronto’s waterfront.

Click here for information about the Forum – its work and how you can be involved.

Resources

Podcast

CFE Virtual Forum Series: The Smart City in a Digital World

Many claims have been made about both the wondrous future smart cities can provide and the serious threats they pose. Watch our expert panel in a lively discussion of vital questions.

Past Event

CFE Virtual Forum Series: The Smart City in a Digital World

Panelists: Nabeel Ahmed, Tracey Lauriault, Vincent Mosco

Moderator: Andrew Clement

Past Event

CFE Virtual Forum Series: Pandemics and Civil Liberties

Panelists: Brenda McPhail, Stephanie Perrin, Renu Mandhane, Tim McSorley

Moderator: James L. Turk

Blog Post

What’s Up with Waterfront Toronto? Why The Silence From City Hall And Other Governments?

The news on the coronavirus are dominating our newscasts so much that many other stories are being neglected. That’s natural.

By Mariana Valverde