"Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Student Academy and Urban Leadership Fellowship program.
- What are you currently working on? What are your research and engagement interests?
I am currently researching successful and failed smart city projects to develop a framework for Waterfront Toronto going forward. One of my key insights so far is that smart developments are about more than just technology, they are complex systems with many touch points of human interaction. If they are not first defined by problems to be solved, then they will end up wasteful with low popular support.
What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make difference?
I truly believe in Toronto’s ability to be a leader in the smart city environment, showing other cities what it takes to build technologically advanced infrastructure that responds to real human needs. The failure of the Sidewalk Toronto project motivated me to think deeply about how to build popular support and address pressing concerns. I hope my insights can influence the government’s approach to future developments.
What’s the latest project you have been working on and would like to share with the SofC audiences?
I recently completed an op-ed synthesizing my insights so far which I hope to have published shortly.
As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact?
The pandemic has revealed the precariousness of spectacle and the need to go back to the drawing board to define real problems. If a solution is not resilient to events like COVID-19 it is inherently unequal as the burden of the current pandemic has fallen disproportionately on the poor. Mass support for innovation is key to creating a tide that lifts all boats.
Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student?
The people I’ve met over the fellowship have really highlighted the importance of diverse skill sets and perspectives in comprehending complex problems. A lot of the social sciences work being done by urban planners and anthropologists was foreign to me before the fellowship, and their insights have helped my thinking greatly.
Any final words/ message?
The School of Cities is an initiative that really highlights how UofT is a leader in practical engagement of scholarship. While this fellowship has been quite unconventional due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, I’m grateful to be part of a community that engages beyond the ivory tower of academia.
Ryan Khurana is a Management Analytics candidate at the Rotman School of Management. He has a background in technology policy working on issues including automation, data governance, and platform regulation. He holds a BA from the University of Manchester in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. His two passions in life are films and watches.