The Next Silicon Valley

Toronto gets smart about Big Tech

According to the New York Times, Toronto won a major fight against Big Tech last week.

“But unlike the battles underway in Washington, it wasn’t over digital domains like online privacy or ad sales; rather, it was over something deep out of the city’s industrial past: its waterfront.

As has been widely reported, Sidewalk Labs, a sister company of Google, has proposed rebuilding a chunk of land east of downtown in exchange for using the city of Toronto as a beta test.

“In pushing back against that plan, Toronto reached a compromise that lets Sidewalk go ahead, but firmly under public control — setting a precedent for how governments around the world can harness the potential for “smart cities” without letting Big Tech dictate the terms.

Its deal with Sidewalk Labs harnesses private “smart city” planning to the public interest.

This could be good news for other cities around the world confronting both the attraction – and the repullision – of BIG Tech.

“Toronto’s experience with Sidewalk Labs to date shows that cities do not need to give up government’s responsibility to prioritize the public interest while pursuing urban innovation. And that’s a lesson not just for other places considering privately developed smart city plans, but also for any government grappling with the challenges and promise of Big Tech.”

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