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The Basics

Toronto’s Civic Data Trust (TCDT) is organized as an oversight mechanism for a number of smaller, more temporary data governance experiments - each of which are, also, legal civic data trusts. The TCDT’s purpose is to ensure the equitable representation of Toronto’s stakeholders in determinations about the collection, use, and re-use of data under public license. The TCDT is governed by a multi-stakeholder group of trustees, based on their affiliation with, or elected representation of, communities.

How it Works

The TCDT, in partnership with City Council, local civil society organizations, and businesses, will administer a quarterly public consultation and prioritization around key public issues, with potential digital solutions. The idea generation and prioritization process would work similar to participatory budgeting, and include the kinds of expert inputs and public voting common in a wide range of participatory and administrative consultation processes. Once problems are identified, the TCDT would release RFPs that define the problem and the scope, as well as a limited set of research subsidies, available and/or accessible data resources, and a structured experimentation process to develop solutions. These could be administered as public, formal procurements, or designed as collaborative project design processes - based on the TCDT’s discretion and experience over time.

The TCDT either evaluates - or appoints an evaluation committee that’s specific to the problem - proposals and grants the award to a Civic Data Trust, who oversees the project administration. The goal of the Civic Data Trust is to ensure the integrity of the project and research and development processes, toward establishing an initial set of hypotheses, pilots, and innovative solutions to relevant civic problems.

The Civic Data Trust is a short-term legal entity whose purpose is to ensure the due process and interests of the stakeholders to each public priority. The activities would be to draft appropriate data licenses, including intellectual property terms that reflect and reward public investment, for each development project. In addition, however, Civic Data Trusts would enforce meaningful opt-in and opt-out processes, dispute resolution for the harms caused during testing, and a set of contextual validation requirements, to make sure that each tool proves that it works as intended before deploying it in public settings.

Civic Data Trust

Once solutions are developed, data requirements are established, and the impact on the public is understood and warrantied, a Civic Data Trust creates a rating and a recommendation back to the TCDT. Based on that rating and warning, the TCDT would make a recommendation to City Council, and/or any other implicated authorities, for a series of data collection requirements, oversight investments, and contractual limitations necessary to realize the benefits of high-performing solutions.

The defining goal of the TCDT is to help engage the public in its investments in digital solutions to public problems - and acts as an expert administrator, similar to the way that Sustainable Technology Development Canada operates. The Civic Data Trust is an independent entity, funded by public taxes at the provincial level. It receives additional funding from privacy regulator fines, public judgments against companies, and commercial assets created through operation.