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What’s driving the push towards smart cities?

New Evergreen discussion paper, in partnership with Code for Canada, highlights key findings from interviews with leaders in mid-sized cities across Ontario.

A view of Cornwall, Ont.

Published on February 12, 2018

Technology surrounds us in our cities, from transit apps to free public Wi-Fi. But integration isn’t enough. We need to innovate, using technology and data as tools to help us build a better future for our cities.

As of 2014, there are a total of 3.9 billion people across the world that live in urban settings. More than half of the world’s population live in cities. Coupled with pressure of rising social inequities, mass migration and climate change, our cities are facing significant challenges. Adopting a “smart city” approach can help cities tackle these challenges.

By including critical reflection, evaluation and community engagement in their approach, cities can make sure they use technology and data to make a real impact on the lives of residents, banishing existing social inequities.


Smart Cities definition: A resilient, inclusive and collaboratively-built city that uses technology and data to better the quality of life for all people.

Trends toward “smarter cities” can be seen across the world and will continue to accelerate in the years to come, presenting a critical opportunity for leaders in communities of all sizes to adapt.

A newly-released Evergreen discussion paper, written in partnership with Code for Canada, analyzes the unique advantage Canada’s mid-sized cities have when it comes to integrating technology and data into the workings of their cities. 

Queen Street in downtown Kitchener.

A resounding takeaway from interviews conducted for the paper is that mid-sized cities are well-positioned to be innovation leaders with technology and data.

Bianca Wylie, Head of the Open Data Institute Toronto, described mid-sized cities as being “structurally set up” for innovation.

Mid-sized cities have …

  • Less complexity, higher agility. Described as “tight”, “nimble”, and “less bureaucratic”, smaller governments can make the adoption of and adaptation to technology occur more smoothly.
  • Fewer eyes, more flexibility. Mid-sized communities can afford to experiment in ways that larger cities may find difficult.
  • Smaller scale, bigger impact. According to interviewees, because mid-sized cities are smaller, technology enhancement can go further and be felt concretely by more residents.
Civic Tech TO event in Toronto.
Civic Tech Toronto event, photo from Code for Canada

Read more about how mid-sized cities could become leaders in the smart city push across Canada in the report [PDF 1.8M] and register for our webinar, taking place on March 20. We'll be discussing the findings of the report as well as offering insights into how mid-sized cities could adopt digital tools and methods.

Visit the Mid-Sized Cities program page to learn more about how Evergreen is supporting leaders in communities that often tend to be overlooked in urban research and policy development.