On Toronto’s Eastern waterfront, a new digital city is being built by Sidewalk Labs a firm owned by Google’s parent Alphabet. It hopes the project will become a model for 21st-Century urbanism. But the deal has been controversial, representing one of biggest ever tie-ups between a city and a large corporation. And that, coupled with the fact that the corporation in question is one of the largest tech firms in the world, is causing some unease.
Sidewalk Labs promises to transform the disused waterfront area into a bustling mini metropolis, one built “from the internet up”, although there is no timetable for when the city will actually be built. Dan Doctoroff, the company’s head and former deputy mayor of New York, told News agents that the project was “about creating healthier, safer, more convenient and more fun lives”.
“We want this to be a model for what urban life can be in the 21st Century,” he said. The area will have plenty of sensors collecting data from traffic, noise and air quality and monitoring the performance of the electric grid and waste collection.
Mr Doctoroff is a big fan of Jane Jacobs, an urbanist who fled New York to live in Toronto and spent her life encouraging cities to improve their shared spaces.She once famously said: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because and only when, they are created by everybody.” Whether the Google firm’s city experiment will fulfill this promise is one many will be watching with interest.