Building Ontario’s Next-Generation Smart Cities through Data Governance: Final Report

Part 4: The Future of Ontario’s Data  

How do we prepare for smart cities? 

With the emergence of data-intensive technologies such as the Internet of things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and supercomputing, opportunities to use and leverage this data to improve the lives of Ontarians have also appeared. However, the collection of this data raises issues of privacy, security, individual rights, data governance, and who should benefit from citizens’ data. In an everchanging digital landscape, policymakers are working to balance the needs of smart city stakeholders while researching frameworks for data governance that will maintain that balance.  

The final report in the smartcitdata governance series from ORION and Compute Ontario summarizes their findings. It goes through the definition of what a smart city as well as current interests surrounding their deployment. It also breaks down the current smart city implementations in municipalities across Ontario, including Stratford, Kingston, Sarnia, and Vaughan and identifies what is working for them. All these factors are examined through a focus on data governance. By analyzing models of data governance including data principles, commons, collaboratives, and trusts, we hope that the report provides future smart city deployments with recommendations that offer both economic opportunities and security for Ontario’s citizens.  


Through the process of this report series by ORION and Compute Ontario, several major lessons have been learned about data governance: 

  • Governance is not monolithic – There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to data governance. Each situation requires careful examination of stakeholders needs 
  • All stakeholders have a unique role – stakeholders will have to work together to ensure the social benefits of smart cities can be leverages and no one role should be diminished 
  • Education and consultation are integral – emphasis needs to be placed on both educating the public and promoting collaboration between stakeholders 
  • Think near-term and long-term action – investments must be made in both the short term (education and awareness) and long term (pilot projects) 
  • Modernize policy and law – a more agile approach to data regulation is needed to keep with the changing technology for smart cities   
  • Ontario’s smart city ecosystem is fragmented – there is no single voice or organization leading smart city deployment and a framework is needed for deployment 

This report has several recommendations for provincial smart city developers: 

  1. Consider regulatory amendments to the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act so that health data can be used for municipal planning 

  2. Implement and evaluate one of the data governance examples examined in this report  

  3. Generate awareness of local initiatives such as Evergreen and its Future Cities Canada partnership, the Open Cities Network and Intelligent Communities Forum which are working to solve the challenges that can face municipal smart cities

  4. Designate a not-for-profit organization as an overseer to take lead in addressing the challenges surrounding data governance for smart cities


To learn more, read the final report of our series: The Future of Ontario’s Data










Download report