Research Brief

December 10, 2021

Open Smart City Initiatives as Tools for Indigenous Data Sovereignty

Open North and The Firelight Group

This brief considers key policy components that any Open Smart Community initiatives would need to incorporate and implement into infrastructure design and procedures to protect Indigenous data sovereignty (IDS).

The Open Data Charter states: “Open data is digital data that is made available with the technical and legal characteristics necessary for it to be freely used, reused, and redistributed by anyone, anytime, anywhere” (Open Data Charter, n.d.).

However, the Open Data Charter did not involve Indigenous peoples or perspectives when it was developed, and so the goals of universal open data access are in direct conflict with the rights of Indigenous people to govern and steward their own data (Rainie et al., 2019).

While Open Smart Community initiatives call for all sectors and citizens to contribute and mobilize such data to inform transparent decision making, IDS challenges these ideals, whereby Indigenous communities have the right to determine what data they would like to share with settler institutions or keep confidential to the community. This brief also considers the opportunities that Open Smart Community initiatives can present for Indigenous communities and governance bodies, by creating and mobilizing their own data through streamlined data collection infrastructure, to inform governance and stewardship decisions for their lands, resources, rights, interests, and membership’s needs and wellbeing.

About the Firelight Group

Founded in 2009 under the principles of quality, fairness, respect, and social return, the Firelight Group aims to provide services specifically tailored to supporting the rights and interests of Indigenous and local communities in Canada and beyond. Firelight’s mission is to support high-quality research, analysis, and technical tools to create solutions for our shared futures, particularly for Indigenous clients.

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