My Deputation to Toronto’s Executive Committee on Sidewalk Toronto — Jan 24 2018
Thank you in particular to both Councillor Minnan-Wong for getting this staff report here — we really need it — and to Michael Noble on the Waterfront Secretariat for his commitment to publicizing the report.
My name is Bianca Wylie, I’m here on behalf of Tech Reset Canada
We have two requests related to this project:
1. Ensure that the data and data infrastructure of this project are the property of the City of Toronto and its residents.
2. Make the Sidewalk Toronto contract public with a public monthly accounting for the $50 million dollars
The policies and laws we have to manage this type of project are out of date, they are pre-internet era.
This is not a situation unique to Toronto, this is a global challenge — big technology is ahead of governance.
In this situation, where we don’t have policy, we run the risk of commercializing the delivery of our public service.
We haven’t had a conversation in this city about if, nevermind how, we want to use this type of tech in our city. So we are in a vacuum. We don’t have a smart city policy.
In this vacuum, big tech is showing up with solutions to make markets. In these times of uncertainty, we need strong leadership.
The City must protect the immense value of our civic data. $50 million dollars is a rounding error in the conversation about the value of our data. We can’t undervalue this asset.
Innovation is born of openness. As owners, we retain the power to open our data, under our terms.
And at that point, true innovation can happen, on our terms.
That’s when broad and wide economic development can take place. Data can be used for new business development, public service delivery, social innovation, academic research, and more.
We must think about this data infrastructure the way we think about critical physical infrastructure. It cannot be proprietary.
About the contract. It needs to be open.
Let’s take a minute here to stop and reframe the narrative.
This is not an urban planning project, it’s a technology project. As for a technology project, the biggest issue is not privacy, it’s governance. This staff report shows what happens in a governance vacuum.
It’s called scope creep.
See page 3 of the staff report.
There are pilot projects now being recommended for the City of Toronto proper. And we don’t have a contract with Sidewalk Labs to manage those projects. We have procurement, yes, but again — out of date.
The fifty million dollars is for R&D, this consultation is not a consultation, it’s product development.
That deal is done.
We need to understand the terms of this deal and the way this money is being spent.
We must protect our digital infrastructure and data, and their immense value as public assets. We can create the conditions for the next steps of this deal, as well as for an open and transparent process. We must. We have one shot at it.