Briefing

Waterfront Toronto’s digital strategy panel calls Sidewalk Labs’ plan ‘frustratingly abstract’

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Sidewalk Labs’ Master Innovation and Development Plan, released in June, is “not sufficiently specific” about its digital innovation proposals and how individuals and businesses can participate in it, according to preliminary commentary released by the Digital Strategy Advisory Panel on Tuesday. The panel recommends that data governance mechanisms for the neighbourhood be developed by Waterfront Toronto along with all three levels of government. It also calls the plan’s value-sharing proposals “insufficient,” and that it doesn’t recognize the full value of the public’s contribution; the company proposed a 10 per cent profit-sharing of technology “first-deployed” in the area over a 10-year period. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The panel emphasized that Sidewalk’s proposal should support Waterfront Toronto’s goals for the Quayside and that more details on how the proposal will be implemented, as well as why it’s better than the alternatives, should be outlined. It’s a firm critique from the panel, which has been critical of Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto’s efforts in the past. In June 2018, The Logic reported that some members opposed signing a confidentiality agreement. In July 2018, John Ruffolo, then-head of OMERS Ventures, resigned from the panel, calling the agreement “vague” and “broad.” Three months later, panel member Saadia Muzaffar, founder of TechGirls Canada, also resigned. Sidewalk Labs said it received most of the feedback throughout its engagement with the panel over the last few months. “It is one of the reasons why we are producing the Digital Innovation Appendix which will include a comprehensive list of technology that would be deployed in Quayside, how we would support Toronto’s technology ecosystem, and our research work on data governance,” said Keerthana Rang, associate director of communications, adding that the company is confident the appendix will address some of the panel’s feedback. Waterfront Toronto’s board will need to approve Sidewalk’s plan for the Quayside if it is to move ahead. In August, the two organizations extended their agreement until March 2020, with an option to terminate in October.