ESC Elements

Ethical Values

Data Privacy


Data privacy is a right of communities to remain free from secret surveillance and to determine whether, when, how, and to whom, their information is to be revealed.

In a Smart City, data is one of the most valuable assets and it needs to be governed ethically. Data plays a big role in building the knowledge base that smart cities operate on. However, the collection of this data determines the value proposition it offers. While the ability to collect data in a smart city influences how cities think about solving their urban challenges, there is a risk that the data which informs decision making can be influenced by the way its collection is designed. 

Data informed decisions are dependent on the right kind of data to be able to make the right decisions. Cities need to learn how to use and manage this data considering its potential to improve processes and create innovative solutions. 

The widespread use of artificial Intelligence and other technologies relies on the collection of large sets of data to function, raising concerns around data privacy. In Israel, anti-terrorism tracking technology was used to surveil citizens and collect data to minimize the spread of the virus. Wide use of this technology included real-time tracking of infected people to pinpoint their current location, where they have been and possibly who they have been in contact with. Without the right measures and governance structures in place, the use of similar technologies could continue for purposes that could infringe on people’s privacy.

However, with the right structures, data can fuel innovation and make it a communal practice. Open Data is a concept that encourages innovation in the public sector as it promotes transparency, accountability and trust as well as the improvement of services, policies and processes. The success of this concept needs an immediate and iterative understanding of data-related policies around the world to uphold data privacy and at the same time maintain data quality. 

An example is the General Data Protection and Regulation (GDPR) in Europe which standardized data collection and processing of personal information in the European Union.  The recognition of the risks around collecting, processing and sharing personal information is a testament to what data can do. Ethical data governance garners trust and participation. Data and technology can be used to serve the community if they are done from a place of consideration.



Sustainability translates to not being not being harmful to the environment or depleting resources, and thereby supporting long-term balance. In the context of the Ethical Smart City Project, sustainability goes beyond the environment and extends to the wellbeing of a city’s economic and social systems.

In a Smart City, solutions are a means to aid cities to sustain themselves in the presence of global disruptors. The intent in implementing these solutions is to address the impact of these disruptors on our cities. Global disruptors like mass migration have a direct impact to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of a city. 

The importance of having sustainable smart solutions is driven by the need to assess their systemic impact. As the city’s infrastructure, resources and processes are put to the test, its limitations become more clear. There’s a need to think of the impact on the social, economic and environmental systems as smart solutions are implemented to ensure the adaptability and the resilience of the city. This approach to sustainability ensures that the limitations of both natural and human resources are considered in smart city solutions. 

Embedding sustainability in the thinking and design of solutions reduces the gap between what is possible and what is preferable. There is value in weaving in foresight when planning for and implementing smart solutions. For centuries, indigenous populations have practiced sustainable thinking as part of their decision making process. The “Seven Generations” principle states that decisions made today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.   Thinking about smart city solutions with this lens of accountability toward the future generation and by applying foresight ensures that smart city solutions learn from past mistakes and serve present and future generations to come, eventually leading to economic, social and environmentally sustainable cities.



Safety is the reflection of how secure different communities feel in different spaces, situations, and events within the city. 

There are a number of factors that contribute to and influence how safety is understood in an Ethical Smart City. From the fulfilment of basic needs to protection against harm to the ability to assert one’s identity, safety can manifest in many ways.    

For some communities, safety translates in their ability to meet their basic needs. In an Ethical Smart City, communities contribute and thrive, which means that smart solutions must be deployed to facilitate their well being. 

Implementing technologies such as sensors and the internet of things are a couple of smart city solutions that also are meant to ensure public safety. Using the information collected by sensors aid in managing traffic and pedestrian flow, which avoid accidents and road congestion. These sensors can also detect certain sounds such as gunshots, which can alert police and avoid delays in their response time. Ensuring public safety is one of the things that a municipality aims to achieve for its communities as it paves the way for corporate, residential and commercial spaces to develop. 

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed various chasms where communities and governments had to debate whether individual privacy was more important than communal safety. The development of contact tracing apps and other technologies to track and control the spread of the virus exposed how safety can be challenged or prioritized by the use of technology.