Smart Cities - Connected Communities

The Issue

Municipal governments are increasingly turning to data-driven and technology-based solutions as a purported means to increase the quality of both public services and the lives of their residents. These so-called “smart cities” initiatives aim to make pervasive use of data from information and communication technologies to achieve promising changes from  greater efficiency, social equality, public safety, inclusiveness, innovativeness and sustainability. Since the widespread use of technology does not necessarily make a community “smart” and as these initiatives are not exclusive to “cities”, we prefer to use the term “connected communities” in referring to initiatives traditionally labeled as “smart cities.” 

Why It Matters

Championed by large technology companies and embraced, often uncritically, by well-intentioned politicians and government staff, the so-called “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 for those who live, work, or merely pass through the communities, but even more importantly raises questions about the public’s right and ability to decide what data should be collected, how data should be governed, used, and who owns and controls it.

Our Work

The Centre has created the CFE Digital Communities Advisory Panel (DCAP).  The panel’s work is guided by the view that connected communities should be characterized by democratic decision-making, democratic data governance, civic engagement, social justice, and protections of human rights as spelled out in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

DCAP Objectives and Projects:

The objectives of DCAP are to:

  • Promote informed public discussion and engagement with issues related to building and sustaining connected communities;
  • Evaluate existing connected community initiatives;
  • Assist community members and policy makers by providing pertinent information and expert analysis and advice;
  • Offer alternative perspectives and proposals where appropriate;
  • Advocate for necessary legislative and policy reform. 

DCAP’s initial projects include:

  • Speaker’s Bureau on connected communities/smart cities issues
  • Registry of experts to provide advice to communities in relation to smart cities/connected community issues (e.g., facial recognition, privacy, urban development proposals, civil liberties, data governance, democratic control, digital technology guidelines)
  • Public report on lessons to be learned from the Sidewalk Labs Toronto Quayside project 
  • Descriptive inventory of current connected community projects in Canada
  • Report on legislative and policy gaps in relation to connected community projects 

The members of DCAP are listed here.

Resources

Upcoming Event

Smart Cities in Canada: Digital Dreams, Corporate Designs

Panelists: Alexandra Flynn, Blayne Haggart, Jennifer Raso, Mariana Valverde

Moderator: James L. Turk

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

Past Event

TO BE RESCHEDULED - The World is Watching Toronto: International Voices on “Smart” Cities and Technology

**To be rescheduled in the fall due to current international travel restrictions**

Panelists: Elizabeth Farries, Amba Kak, George KegoroJay Stanley

Moderator: Brenda McPhail