Learn more about the Ethical Smart City Project
In 2019–20, the fifteenth cohort of the Interdisciplinary Design Strategy program at the Institute without Boundaries (IwB), George Brown College in Toronto, embarked on a nine-month-long project to explore how Smart Cities can be designed to be ethical, sustainable and inclusive. The Ethical Smart City Project is the labour of a year’s dedication to researching, visualizing, and developing an Ethical Smart City (ESC) Framework.
To accomplish this task, we carried out extensive research to understand the relationships and interconnections within Smart Cities in Canada and around the world and used human-centred design to derive valuable insights. This exploration helped us break down the concept of Ethical Smart Cities into a series of tangible outcomes. We define an Ethical Smart City as one that has at its centre engaged, thriving, and diverse communities. The values of the communities guide Ethical Smart Cities to identify their challenges. By identifying systemic challenges and considering these values, Ethical Smart Cities can use appropriate technology to create ethical, sustainable, and inclusive solutions.
The Ethical Smart City Project aims to transform cities into Ethical Smart Cities.
The Ethical Smart City Project provides a values-driven framework that facilitates a city’s transformation process into an Ethical Smart City by prioritizing the community’s needs and values while solving its challenges.
The ESC Project produced a Framework that puts the community at the centre and guides municipalities on their journey from Cities to Ethical Smart Cities. The five-step process of the ESC Framework resulted from applying design thinking to the needs and processes at the municipal level. A lot of the inspiration came from a mix of primary research insights from the interviews and the envisioned experience of transformation for municipalities.
To provide practical steps to transform Cities into Ethical Smart Cities the Framework is broken down into five-steps and supported by user-friendly tools – all of which can be accessed on this website. All five steps are complemented by precedents of smart cities around the world solving their challenges in an ethical manner.
Through this year, the following touchpoints were critical in the evolution of this project:
- Research from precedents from around the world showing that cities do not always have the same starting point and have very specific challenges and needs. It also highlighted the impetus of public engagement in designing ethical solutions. A series of interviews and surveys with municipal leaders and innovation experts, conducted both in-person and remotely, to learn more about the role of municipalities within the Smart Cities context.
- Developing a systems map that first evolved into a Generative tool and eventually became our Ethical Smart City Framework. The flexible design of this Framework was inspired by the system mapping exercise which highlighted the impetus of making space for each city’s unique context.
- An International Charrette hosted by the IwB in February 2020 was especially crucial in narrowing down the scope to Canadian cities and municipalities. The Charrette focused on developing design solutions for 15 of 139 cities and communities selected from the 2018 Infrastructure Canada national Smart Cities Challenge.
- Narrowing down the 15 projects to three and the development of design proposals around the challenge and design solutions generated during the International Charrette. The ESC Toolkit was also developed to ensure that the Framework was not merely conceptual and could be applied.
We hope that municipalities around the world use the ESC Framework when addressing the needs of their communities and that the experience bridges the gap between how cities are planned and how they are experienced by the communities within them.
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