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MDes, Digital Futures Thesis

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With the growth of the internet, data has become an invisible commodity that people have no control over. Following a “Knowledge is Power” approach has led to a digital divide and corporate greed. This has created a digital terrain where the value of data does not belong to those who create it. With users’ complete profiles scattered across numerous platforms, we have transitioned into a digital environment where users are not included in the conversation of data and are completely unaware of the movements and uses of the data that they have generated.

The idea behind my intervention is to begin the conversations of data amongst all citizens. With big data-driven decisions, data has the ability to influence our lives in conscious and subconscious ways. And so, it is imperative that we begin to treat data as public infrastructure and insert more transparency.

E-Toronto as a smart city initiative seeks to address and improve the generation, experience and engagement with data. It will do so in two ways: via a physical TO-Card, which facilitates access to the smart city initiative, and an E-Toronto mobile application that builds ongoing transparency and engagement with data.

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As we transition into a data-driven world, we interact with data in 2 ways. First is the data we generate, and second is the data we access. The data we access frequently is static data, such as profile, address or payment information. In order to build convenience, E-Toronto introduces the idea of Data Pockets. Similar to how banks provide a space for us to digitally store our money, citizens are offered decentralized data vaults that contain their datapoints from different sources. These data pockets are securely linked to the TO-Card.

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E-Toronto officially onboards citizens with a tangible TO-Card that allows for daily engagement and interaction with city data. Like a Social Identity Number (SIN), the TO-Card will act as a unified digital identity to help instantly access services and benefits across the grid. The TO-Card functions like a data broker for citizens to access their decentralized pockets of data based on their context at any point in time. Upon tap, pre-programmed card readers are designed to draw the relevant information across various data pockets.

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Explore prototype

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The City Dashboard engages citizens with live city data and developments through a series of ‘TO-segments’. These segments explore various ways of visualizing relevant data and enhancing one’s experience and knowledge of the city. This allows them to make informed decisions and make better use of the city’s resources and databases. By promoting this data-driven participation, citizens can play an active role in the city’s urban development.

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While E-Toronto looks to provide seamless experiences of accessing static data through the TO-Card, the mobile application offers access to a Digital Profile so that users can control all data that is collected on them. This includes the information within their data pockets and the ongoing data that they generate through various interactions with other smartphone applications. The objective is to provide control, and enable more contextual experiences by sharing a more authentic data profile.

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The app also incoporates a segment linked to the TO-Card. Through the TO-Tracker citizens can keep track of the data they access through the city.

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Explore prototype