This Note is part of a series of Notes on key City issues to update City Council at the start of its 2018 – 2022 term.

Issue description

A smart city uses technology and data to optimize resources and enhance the quality and performance of urban services, increase economic competitiveness, and engage citizens more effectively. A smarter city develops and implements innovative policies and technologies to ensure these benefits are realized in a manner unique and consistent with its core values of economic, social, cultural and environmental vitality.

Smart City encompasses a broad range of opportunities to support City improvements and address issues that are underpinned by innovative uses of data and technology. Smart Cities goes beyond technology; it is an opportunity for the City to drive service excellence and improve quality of life.


Key activities the City is undertaking associated with Smart City include:

  • Developing a Smart City strategy for the City.
  • Ensuring effective City-wide governance associated with Smart City planning and decision-making.
  • Establishing a partnership model to bring key divisions and City agencies into a broader City of Toronto Smart City ecosystem context and decision-making framework.
  • Leveraging momentum of Connected Communities/Smart City Challenge ideas and other concept projects to be further developed.

Through integrated solutions across service areas, the City will continue to evolve digital government that supports the modern digital citizen, businesses, workforce and its communities, challenges, and opportunities for the future.


Cities around the world face common challenges, among them rapid growth, budget pressures, congestion, technological advancement, and climate change. ‘Smart City’ is a broad concept applied globally to describe, identify, and promote approaches and solution that use technology and data to address major challenges that cities face to improve social, economic, and environmental outcomes for residents.

Modernization and Smart City

The modernization of City services is underpinned by an effective approach to planning and implementing Smart City approaches and solutions. There are already many Smart City achievements in Toronto with a future focus to develop a Smart City Strategy and to ensure effective governance of Smart City investments and initiatives. The City is driving several solutions that support a Smart City, including:


  • Service delivery with a focus on customer experience and digital government
  • End-to-end operational delivery
  • Digital investment aligned to City strategy (housing, mobility, service modernization and fiscal sustainability)


  • Open Data driving transparency and engagement in government
  • Internet connectivity and digital literacy for residents and businesses that closes the digital divide. Toronto Public Library is a leader in digital inclusion and digital literacy initiatives.
  • Data analytics capabilities to drive opportunities for improvements


  • City engagement in emerging digital opportunities – Block chain pilot, Internet of things, Artificial Intelligence, Drones, Sensors
  • Ride sharing – policy innovation enabled by technology
  • Building innovation capabilities including the City’s Civic Innovation Office and human-centered design/agile practices

Smart City Working Group

In February 2016, the Toronto Region Board of Trade (TRBOT) jointly formed a Smart Cities Working Group (SCWG) with the City of Toronto. The SCWG encompasses over 50 public-private sector members from the TRBOT’s Municipal Performance Standards Committee and includes membership from Economic Development and Culture and Information & Technology and the Chief Transformation Office.

The SCWG was established to raise awareness of local and international Smart Cities’ developments, develop a vision and roadmap of what “Smarter” could mean for Toronto, and establish a collaborative forum to leverage local Smart Cities’ expertise.

Several achievements have been realized through the SCWG including:

  • Three annual Smart City Summits in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to raise awareness of the Smart City realm, foster engagement, and support Smart City dialogue for Toronto and the Greater Toronto region.
  • Release of the SCWG Smart City report, Choices for a Smarter Toronto: A Call for Collaborative Action, in May 2017, with focus on five key areas; collaborate, catalyze, connect, co-create and communicate and actions for both City government and the broader public and private Smart Toronto and region ecosystem.
  • Active support for the Canadian Federal Government Smart City Challenge in 2017/2018 including facilitating engagement and feedback segments for the City of Toronto and broader region as well.

The SCWG is currently completing a Smart City Asset Map and Inventory of organizations in the Greater Toronto region that deliver a broad range of Smart Solutions across areas such as the economy, environment, mobility, education, security, and living. The Smart City asset map is intended to drive awareness and economic investment in “Smart” in the Toronto region.

Smart City Federal Challenge

In 2017 and 2018 the City participated in the Canadian Federal Smart Cities Challenge developed by Infrastructure Canada, designed to encourage the development of innovative solutions to urban challenges in partnership with municipal leaders, organizations and non-profit and academic partners. The City was eligible to compete for a $50 million prize.

The City’s mandate was to ensure the proposed project would have a meaningful impact on those who work, live and play in Toronto and showcase Toronto’s strength as a centre for innovation and connected technology, while ensuring the solution would achieve meaningful outcomes for residents.

The City undertook a comprehensive engagement and developed a proposal aimed at reducing child poverty for those living in Toronto’s older high-rise rental apartment communities (built before 1985) by enhancing economic opportunities for their families and removing barriers to employment, education, training, and social and cultural opportunities. Reducing child poverty would be achieved by:

  • developing a digital platform that would bring together information about employment, training and services as well as social and cultural opportunities, tailored to the specific needs of low-income families living in high-rise rental apartment communities;
  • providing affordable high-speed internet access in high-rise rental apartment communities; and
  • providing training opportunities to develop in-demand digital knowledge and skills and increase digital literacy.

In August 2018, the Government of Canada announced five finalists who would receive $250,000 to develop their proposals further. Unfortunately, Toronto did not advance to this phase; however the goodwill coupled with a commitment from various stakeholders demonstrates strong support and momentum to continue to move forward and develop a strategy to execute the project.

While the initial communication indicated that the prize levels would be replicated in future rounds, Infrastructure Canada may decide to revise the program based on feedback from municipalities across the country. The announcement of the next round of the Smart City Challenge is expected in early 2019.

Internet Connectivity

In 2017, the City undertook a review of Internet Connectivity from an access and affordability lens for citizens, businesses and visitors across the city as part of the Toronto Broadband Study. The basis for this was to understand the potential digital divide in Toronto better.

The study found that although access to high-speed internet was available geographically across Toronto at acceptable levels, affordability was an issue. The Toronto Broadband Study was reported to City Council and actions to improve internet connectivity are in progress including a focus on a deeper analysis of the correlation of internet access and socio-economic factors across Toronto and at-risk neighbourhoods.