This post is part of a series covering ULI Toronto’s Fall Symposium which took place November 2nd and 3rd at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The inaugural symposium, Emerging Trends and City Building, saw hundreds of industry professionals gather to be a part of the ongoing dialogue on the future of urban development.
On November 3rd, day two of ULI Toronto’s Fall Symposium kicked off with a conversation centred on a question that captivated the audience: how disruptive is disruptive technology? The conversation was moderated by Toronto’s Chief City Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, who was able to connect a thought provoking dialogue between four leaders in tech: Ian Black, General Manager of Uber, Steve Ladurantaye, Head of Government Partnerships at Twitter Canada, Colin McKay, Head of Government and Public Policy at Google Canada and Aaron Zifkin, Country Manager for Canada at Airbnb. The discussion highlighted the impact of technology on city building, how it affects communities and the role of government in reacting to and regulating new technologies that upend the status quo.
Some key points that emerged from the conversation include:
1. Transportation Evolution
Our traditional view of transportation has changed. People need better modes of transportation, and Uber has created a means to address this. Black shared that the suburbs — also known as “transit deserts” — require stronger transit options. Uber has provided another option to complement public transit, urban taxis and personal cars. Keesmaat stated that Canadians only use their car 4% of the time, so a shift toward other modes of transport makes sense. This shift would positively affect issues like parking and congestion, while increasing the accessibility of urban centres.
2. Micro Moments Impact Decision Making
“There are over one billion tweets every two days. People have access to real-time information like never before,” said Twitter’s Ladurantaye. This has led to “micro moments”, which as McKay explained, are the hundreds of moments each day where we look to technology for information. Our ability to make decisions is derived from newsfeeds that update thousands of times per day and influence our everyday lives.
3. Value of the Human Experience
“The human experience is what holds people together,” explained Keesmaat, and the value of the experience is integral to technological innovations. Airbnb’s business model is centered on bringing people together which is likely the key to their success – they literally bring strangers together into one of their homes. “From a human perspective, people are looking for ways to interact with one another. People want to feel connected,” said Zifkin.
4. Shift in Government Bureaucracy
For the advancement of communities, all levels of government need to be active and more receptive in embracing innovative technology. “Governments need to be more cooperative, open and flexible towards new technological innovations,” Black said. UberPOOL, which has already been launched in some US cities, will further impact public transit usage in cities as carpooling is facilitated by technology and governments will needs to adapt. McKay agreed that self-organizing communities can now solve issues that, prior to the development of these new technologies, only governments could solve. Government and technology leaders need to work together without bureaucratic processes that harm technological innovation. As Zifkin pointed out, why don’t we stop referring to technology as being disruptive (which has a negative connotation) and simply call it innovative? Legislation has to evolve to embrace technological advancements that have positively affected people.