Katinnganiq Smart City Challenge Prize: Privacy Implications

by Sara Bannerman

By Serguei Tabatchenko, CIPPIC Intern

What is the plan?

    The Katinnganiq proposal “Community, Connectivity, and Digital Access for Life Promotion in Nunavut” is a collaborative application by the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, the Embrace Life Council, the Quajigiartiit Health Research Centre and the Pinnguaq Association on behalf of 25 Nunavut municipalities. The Katinnganiq application video states that the application’s goal is to implement protective and preventative measures to reduce the risk of suicide in Nunavut and increase the amount and accessibility of peer support networks, educational resources and creative outlets that promote positive Mental Health to all Nunavummiut. It will do so by implementing creative technology solutions and addressing physical, spiritual and mental wellness within the territory (p 5). The $10 million grant will be used to support 6 digital and physical projects, which will include makerspaces, the te(a)ch k-12 computer programming curriculum, mesh networks, digital art therapies, mental health and wellness applications and Nunavut’s 211 app (p 15). 

    The initiative will be implemented by the Katinnganiq Makerspace Network (“KMN”), an umbrella non-profit organization that will be responsible for co-managing and implementing the project in the 25 municipalities involved (p 15). The proposal will be implemented through 5 different milestones, and each municipality will have a local delivery organization, or a “KMN-L”, that will implement these milestones within its community. It will be interesting to see how this governance model will impact the efficiency and usefulness of the project considering there are so many different parties involved. 

The 5 milestones

The first milestone involves setting up the KMN office space and infrastructure, drafting a Charter that serves as a contract between the award recipients and the KMN, and create a detailed roadmap for project implementation in each municipality (p 48). The KMN would be smart to secure tenders with local businesses for its infrastructure and organizational needs, which would not only drive economic growth in remote communities but also build a strong sense of community. It’s worth noting that this milestone is also in accordance with the Nunavut Lands Claim Agreement and Canada’s newly released Digital Charter principles, one of which calls for equal opportunity for Canadians to participate and compete in the digital world. Overall, the successful implementation of this milestone will likely determine the success of the remaining milestones, so it will be interesting to see how the KMN implement their plans at this stage.

    The second milestone seeks to develop KMN content and platforms for the te(a)ch k-12 curriculum, which became publicly available on March 5, 2019 (p 49). This will involve developing an Elder-led curriculum and 40 adult learning lessons designed to improve digital literacy within Nunavut. As well, the milestone calls for new community data centers that have the workstations and network infrastructure required to support the project. The third milestone involves delivering the te(a)ch programs to youth across the municipalities and using an interconnected, open source and web-based platform like Git to deploy new programming and updates across all municipalities at once (p 50). 

Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all management approach is not suitable for managing 25 municipalities, the fourth milestone will offer support to KMN-L organizations by providing management and accountability structures, training and a data privacy system in collaboration with the Privacy Commissioner of Nunavut (p 51). Finally, the fifth milestone will analyze the data collected from its programs to create quantitative and qualitative metrics (p 52). These metrics will be used by municipalities to improve existing programs through statistics and for amending program budgets if needed. The KMN proposes to collect and store user data on a central electronic database on a local, encrypted network (p 65). Collection will require written, valid and informed consent that can be withdrawn by users at any point and collected data will be de-personalized prior to processing (p 66).

Potential privacy concerns

     As the proposal is based on knowledge sharing, collaboration and open source technology, there is a need to protect Inuit data sovereignty, cultural information and intellectual property. As a non-profit organization, the KMN is subject to Nunavut’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPP), which governs public and governmental bodies by providing a framework for accessing public records and using personal information (p 63-64). The KMN also aims to adhere to the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) despite not being a private-sector organization (p 63). Overall, the proposal contains a detailed plan for adhering to legislative privacy standards and provides adequate privacy controls for users. 

    One potential privacy concern is the reliance on open source software. As there is power in numbers, open source benefits from a community that can detect software and security issues quickly. However, the KMN will need to be proactive in issuing patches and updating protocols, which will require oversight from an experienced and educated community. Considering the infrastructure, connectivity and education shortages that northern Nunavut communities may face due to their location, open source may actually serve as a detriment because the community oversight may not be fast or efficient enough to ensure user privacy. The proposal does involve upgrading internet infrastructure, which is a step in the right direction (see Katinnganiq proposal, Chapter 5). Furthermore, the KMN will overcome the lack of community expertise by relying on the IXP network, a project that provides high-level technology advice and training (p 57). It remains to be seen whether infrastructure upgrades across 25 municipalities will be enough to support such an extensive proposal, and whether open software is the right choice for a community that may not be qualified enough to oversee software administration and support.