Technology plays a prominent role in the City and residents’ lives. The use of data and technology presents both opportunities and challenges that require a consistent, integrated approach. Toronto’s Digital Infrastructure Strategic Framework (DISF), adopted in April 2022 (EX31.7), was developed to guide decisions related to digital infrastructure along six principles:

  • Equity and Inclusion;
  • A Well-Run City;
  • Society, Economy and the Environment;
  • Privacy and Security;
  • Democracy and Transparency; and
  • Digital Autonomy.

DISF implementation will be a multi-year process, led by a Digital Roadmap, consisting of new policies and initiatives such as a Digital Equity program, which may require public consultation and Council approval. Items that may appear before City Council in 2023 include a new corporate policy and public registry for sensors, and a new policy and public registry for artificial intelligence.

Current Status

City staff have developed a DISF Implementation Plan that encompasses July 2022 to March 2024, and new Corporate Policy and Application Guidelines to ensure that the City’s technology initiatives align with the DISF.

In addition, an internal Digital Infrastructure Steering Committee and a Digital Infrastructure Public Advisory Body (DIPAB) have been established. The DIPAB will be a consultation forum embedded into the decision-making process, whereby project staff can seek advice from appointed residents and other industry experts regarding their projects. The DIPAB is critical to a broader communications plan to improve transparency for digital infrastructure and strengthen resident and business engagement.

Background & Context

Digital Infrastructure includes all technology assets that create, exchange or use data or information in a digital form as part of their operations, as well as all data collected or used by these technology assets.

Over the last few years, public discourse on projects such as Sidewalk Labs has put a spotlight on the role of digital infrastructure in public spaces and the collection and use of data by governments. In 2019, City Council made several recommendations, including directing:

  • City staff to develop a City-wide policy framework and governance model for digital infrastructure (MM3.2); and
  • the Chief Technology Officer to take on an expanded mandate providing support, oversight and direction on standards, practices and policies to all City divisions and certain agencies and corporations with respect to all technology assets, goods, and services (AU4.1).

In 2020, after public and stakeholder consultation, Council adopted five Working Principles and related vision statements to guide the City’s Digital Infrastructure governance; a sixth principle was added based on Council guidance in 2021.

In 2022, City Council adopted the DISF as the future-facing guiding direction for Digital Infrastructure Initiatives undertaken by the City.

Truth, Justice & Reconciliation

First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Toronto have historically been the targets of surveillance in Canada. Therefore, First Nations Information Governance and Indigenous data sovereignty are important elements of reconciliation with regard to technology. DISF Implementation includes conducting further consultation with Indigenous communities to integrate reconciliation into the DISF. The DISF is supporting the work of the Data for Equity initiative, which will develop an Indigenous Data Governance Strategic Framework to ensure that Indigenous data is gathered, analyzed and shared across appropriate institutions to inform real-time policy and program development that meets the needs of the diverse Indigenous communities in Toronto. In 2022, the City established a First Nations, Inuit and Métis Data and Technology Circle to ensure that Indigenous people’s information is collected according to appropriate legislation, policies and protocols, and that the information is managed in ways that recognize Indigenous communities as rights holders.

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

The use of data and technology has multiple equity implications for Indigenous, Black, equity-deserving groups, and those with accessibility needs. These include:

  • lack of access to the internet and internet-enabled devices (referred to as the digital divide);
  • accessibility needs not being fully understood and/or addressed; and
  • the potential for automated decisions and processes to perpetuate bias and discrimination.

DISF implementation will support positive equity outcomes for Indigenous, Black, equity-deserving groups, and those with accessibility needs. The DISF establishes guidelines that foster digital inclusion and integrate digital equity considerations into the decision-making process. The DISF includes an Equity and Inclusion Principle, supports the City of Toronto Data for Equity Strategy, and directs the City to use Digital Infrastructure as a means of creating and sustaining equity and inclusion.

Future DISF initiatives include:

  • creation of a Digital Equity policy, which will include exploring the provision of affordable high-speed internet, and access to internet-enabled devices for residents;
  • establishing data governance mechanisms that protect the dignity and human rights of Toronto’s equity-deserving communities; and
  • greater transparency and accountability that will enhance equity.

Key Contacts

Renee Laforet
Interim Chief Technology Officer, 416-397-0500

Alice Xu
Director, Digital City of Toronto, 416-392-2085