Toronto tech executives want to share technological control with Google. Toronto residents should demand more.

Photo by Joshua Chua on Unsplash

This month, Toronto Life magazine published its October issue on big thinkers evaluating the role of Sidewalk Labs on Toronto’s waterfront. One of the opinion editorials is from Yung Wu, the Chief Executive Officer of the MaRS Discovery District. MaRS has evolved over the last decade into one of Toronto’s premier science and tech startup hubs.

Wu devotes his editorial to make the case that Toronto tech innovators — presumably describing entrepreneurs, early-stage funders, early tech employees and startup hubs like the one Wu leads at MaRS — should be more involved in executing Sidewalk Labs’ digital strategy. Wu praises…

I was lucky enough to be a founding member of Women && Tech. Here’s what volunteering for their organization taught me.

Image courtesy Women&&Tech

In the spring of 2012, after attending a design conference at which there were no female presenters and a handful of female attendees, Cassie McDaniel approached the conference organizers with a deceivingly difficult question: “Why weren’t there more women at this conference?”

Buoyed by that conference experience, Cassie set out to answer that question. The result was Women && Tech, an early attempt to amplify the voices of women who worked in the tech industry. The site was a smash hit from the beginning, with almost 3,000 people accessing the picturesque, interactive site on its first day.

Two years after…

Here’s a letter I submitted to the City of Toronto last night as a response to the Quayside item that was discussed in today’s Executive Committee meeting.

Dear Mayor John Tory and Executive Committee members,

My name is Milan Gokhale. I am a tech worker and writer who lives in Toronto. As a resident, I wish to express my dissatisfaction with the City’s position on engaging with and potentially spending public money on Sidewalk Labs and their Google-funded waterfront development project. Waterfront Toronto has a responsibility to end this project immediately. …

To improve their coverage of Sidewalk Labs, Canadian news media must better incorporate underrepresented voices and critical perspectives.

It is now twenty months and counting since Google sister company Sidewalk Labs first announced they would develop a digital-first neighbourhood in east downtown Toronto. The nebulous and ill-defined “Sidewalk Toronto” waterfront development project has already resulted in advisory resignations, public agency leadership dismissals, a civil society lawsuit, parliamentary ethics questions and a scathing provincial audit, not to mention public opposition by mayoral candidates, a tech billionaire, activists, academics, bureaucrats and politicians.

Despite this impending smart city disaster, privately owned Canadian news media — The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, The Financial Post, The National Post, The Globe and Mail…

The tech industry loves basic universal income. Why then has there been no outcry about the loss of a basic universal income pilot program in Ontario?

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

Last summer, Doug Ford and the Ontario Conservative majority government eliminated $50M in provincial funding for a basic minimum income pilot that was started by the Liberal Party of Ontario in 2016. The provincial Conservatives stopped the program even though they hadn’t seen the data on whether the experiment was working.

By all accounts, this kind of ideological disregard for data should cause fury within data-driven circles of the Canadian tech industry, who publicly declare their love for the concept of a universal basic income. Tobi Lütke, CEO of Shopify, once said universal basic income “fits the narrative Canada can…

#BlockSidewalk will be a challenge for Canadian media to cover, but there are too many important stories to ignore.

Photo by Mr Cup / Fabien Barral on Unsplash

You may have heard about #BlockSidewalk, the campaign to reset Sidewalk Toronto, that was launched yesterday at City Hall. I was one of dozens of people who showed up to offer my support. The press conference was attended by several local journalists, political strategists and other Toronto-based media.

In the coming months, Canadian media may have major challenges covering #BlockSidewalk, because like many community initiatives, the campaign won’t contain a single, simple narrative or polished talking points. There will likely be nuance and complexity that can’t be simplified into a sound byte.

Still, there are some really amazing stories that…

Mayor John Tory has endorsed security technology that will make policing worse and should be illegal.

Photo by Niv Singer on Unsplash

This past summer, Mayor John Tory and his allies voted in favour of spending $4.3 million for the purchase of digital security cameras and microphones. The cameras and microphones will be placed in neighbourhoods like the one where I grew up in north Scarborough. The decision ensures that racialized communities will continue to be over-policed. This was an embarrassing, unethical, disgraceful decision by the previous Toronto City Council, and it is unlikely to be overturned by the new Toronto City Council that was recently elected in November.

The maker of the technology, ShotSpotter, is a security management software firm with…

To be a world-class digital city, Toronto must make the public library — not Google — its core institution of trust.

Image courtesy Toronto Public Library

That the city is also the primary target of big tech is no accident: if these firms succeed in controlling its infrastructure, they need not worry about much else.

Evegeny Morozov

Last Wednesday, Amazon announced that they will open satellite offices in New York City and northern Virginia, D.C. The announcement shouldn’t have been newsworthy — after all, tech companies open satellite offices in new cities all the time — but Amazon is different. A year ago, they turned their business growth plan into Amazon HQ2, an international marketing stunt that compelled small and large cities alike to compete…

A 21st century Toronto needs a mayor every bit as audacious in her demands for meaningful change as John Tory is in his demands for status quo.

Image courtesy

The 2018 Toronto municipal mayoral election has largely been overshadowed by the interference of Premier Doug Ford and his band of cronies at Queen’s Park. In the aftermath of his short-sighted, undemocratic, election gerrymandering, it has never been clearer that a 21st century Toronto requires a reboot rooted in really, really, really big thinking. …

Some young Canadian software engineers are leaving for Silicon Valley. This should alarm us — but not for the reasons the tech industry tells us.

“low angle photo of airliner plane” by John McArthur on Unsplash

On a bright sunny day in June ten years ago, in Building 34 at Microsoft’s world headquarters in Redmond, a colleague on the team I worked, who had interviewed and recommended hiring me in Toronto two years before, stopped me in the hallway with a knowing grin on his face. He told me that he was happy to hear that I was leaving on my terms, but at the same time, he was irritated that I chose to leave Redmond after Microsoft spent thousands of dollars relocating me.

“The moving boxes, the immigration forms, the flights — all of those…

Milan Gokhale

dad, husband, writer, tech geek, elder millennial, leftist, introvert. he/him. pronounced like villain with an ‘m’.

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