Technology has collided with democracy in Canada

Tech has outpaced the ability of our cities to put strong policy and governance around it. As cities deploy connected, data-gathering infrastructure, they risk outsourcing the public domain to large vendors, selling closed systems which encroach on public control of infrastructure and data.

The long-term risk is a slow erosion of the capacity, effectiveness and moral authority of our cities to fulfil their mandate, while inserting external actors as an ungovernable layer within city operations.

To counter this, layers of the smart city must be built and maintained in the public interest. Doing so will drive government innovation and unlock new data-driven forms of economic, social and democratic good.

The Open City Network

Our city-first approach to smart cities calls for:

  • Open architecture as our technological foundation;
  • The value of public data to remain in public hands;
  • Modernized regulations for smart cities that tilt strongly towards the public interest;
  • Investments in the digital and cultural modernization our local democratic institutions.

Building Digital Public Infrastructure

Smart cities are currently being built by a patchwork of large and small private sector vendors, with no systematic emphasis on open architecture, interoperability, public governance or on protecting the value of public data. We must reframe smart cities as a major public works project, built in the public interest by a careful blend of public, private and NGO actors. The Open City Network is building digital public infrastructure in this manner: with the business models and incentives that would typically accrue maximum value to the private sector amended to ensure that our city institutions emerge stronger, not weaker,  from this “smart city” moment.

If you or your organization are interested in this work, please read our city-first briefing.