Internationally there are some key examples of Smart City developments that have attracted criticism and concerns, which can be compared with those that have attempted to embed digital inclusion and citizen empowerment.

Sidewalk Labs at Toronto Waterfront has angered citizens and been criticised for normalising massive data collection without asking whether anyone wants it at all. Citizens have argued that the city should be developed for the benefit of the citizens not the shareholders of a Google-affiliate. This initiative, lacking in social licence, gave rise to a #BlockSidewalk campaign and the resignation of the privacy advisor due to “unacceptable” treatment of citizens’ personal data.

But smart cities are not just about surveillance – or they don’t have to be. The promise of a truly effective smart city is one that is citizen-led; that asks first what citizens need and how the city can be better, and which aligns the data collection and technology agenda to those needs, rather than the other way around. Barcelona is an example of a city that is using data to improve the cultural, social and civic lives of its residents.

When done right, smart cities can help to streamline bureaucracy, restore trust in public institutions, and enhance inclusion and democracy. This is where Data Care comes in.