Digital ID and the Future of Cities


On August 27 at The Bentway (an urban green space under the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto), FedDev Ontario announced their investment of up to $11.1 million towards Innovate Cities. This not-for profit organization and Canadian-led network of innovators is involved in the development and commercialization of smart city technologies. 

The announcement touted Canada’s role in the global innovation race, and Toronto’s “moment on the world stage.” 

All over the world, the populations of cities are booming. Each week, an estimated 1.3 million people move into cities, and UN data indicates that, by 2050, around 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities. 

As populations grow, cities are also becoming more connected. Various connected devices are designed to enhance the daily routines of citizens, such as smart parking meters that help drivers find and pay for parking, and smart trash receptacles that can alert sanitation crews where trash collection services are required. 

“For smart cities to become a reality, they will need smart digital identity tools to connect citizens with their services,” noted an article from PYMNTS. 

In envisioning and building the cities of the future, digital ID has a role to play. 

Digital ID is the thread that connects individuals to such digital services. It will be the driving force in enabling such services and unlocking the full potential of smart cities.

To achieve this vision, digital identity innovation must be designed to protect people’s rights and privacy, while enabling them with tools that enable agency and choices over how and when information is shared and for what purpose. When designing for the cities of the future, it is important that citizens are put at the centre of an inclusive design process. 

“Digital ID is crucial to the development of our digital economy, and cities play a large role in this,” said DIACC President Joni Brennan. “As an organization strongly focused on collaboration, DIACC is excited by the work that Innovate Cities is doing to position Canada as a global leader in smart city innovation.” 

What if there were unattended kiosks through which citizens could access certain healthcare services, such as getting blood drawn or filling prescriptions? Digital ID plays a key role in this, as such a system will first require a secure digital identity solution before trusted by citizens or city officials. 

Digital ID is also applicable in the area of public transportation. Using connected devices as well as digital ID solutions, a smart city’s public transportation system would be able to automatically determine who is using these services and how much each traveler should pay. For example, Digital ID may also enable governments to deliver much needed benefits to low-income residents who ride the bus without subjecting those residents to a visible stigma. 

Digital ID plays an important role in making such solutions a reality, and achieving the optimal overall digital experience. In various cities around the world, we are seeing innovative experimentations in digital identity.

Trusted digital identity must enable people to access services efficiently and securely. Identity systems implemented across banks, government agencies, retailers and other organizations will improve the user experience. 

Investments such as this one from FedDev helps position Canada as a leader in our global digital economy, and ensure that innovation continues to occur.  As an organization that celebrates Canadian innovation and collaboration towards our digital future, DIACC is excited about the work that Innovate Cities is doing, and looks forward to seeing what’s next.