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Barcelona City Council will have a pioneering municipal AI strategy in Europe

The full Barcelona City Council Meeting has approved an institutional declaration supporting a reliable, ethical municipal technology model, based on technological humanism. Its aim is to facilitate scientific progress, preserve the city’s technological leadership and guarantee new digital rights with citizen participation in overseeing the uses that is made of these technologies in the public sector.

This declaration reaffirms the institutional commitment to using technology to improve public service and represents the starting point for putting in place the basic pillars for applying emerging technologies and, in particular, developing the first municipal artificial intelligence (AI) strategy, a pioneering strategy in Europe. Helsinki and London are the only European cities that have signed a collaboration agreement on AI, open data and digital innovation but this has yet to crystallise in a local action plan like the one proposed in the institutional declaration adopted at the Full Council Meeting.  

The Deputy Mayor for the 2030 Agenda, Digital Transition, Sport, and City and Metropolitan Coordination of Barcelona City Council, Laia Bonet, welcomed the step forward that Barcelona is taking: ‘Today the city is placing itself at the forefront of European and world cities by approving this roadmap for a reliable and ethical technology model, which puts emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence at the service of people and social progress’.

The arrival of the fourth industrial revolution is producing a change in society, altering the way we live, work and relate to each other. The Covid-19 crisis has speeded up the digitalisation of economic and social activities but also given rise to new technological risks, which may generate more inequality and discrimination. Therefore, at this time of technological disruption, we urgently need a policy that guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms, and which speeds up the generation of new digital rights. 

Barcelona aims to turn this disruption into an opportunity and offer society technology’s advantages as tools to help the city develop and progress, with the commitment to become a global benchmark for technological humanism by ensuring emerging technologies are at the service of citizens.   

The text submitted to the Full Council Meeting aims to position the City Council on the side of technological humanism in response to new technological challenges and promote digitalisation as a tool for social progress, based on ethical principles and founded on personal rights and freedoms. Moreover, it is committed to facilitating scientific progress and preserving the city’s technological leadership, as well as ensuring emerging technologies serve citizens, investing whatever is needed to tackle the risks associated with artificial intelligence and guaranteeing human supervision of automated decision-making when that affects people.

The institutional declaration also says the City Council will create mechanisms to oversee and guarantee that the data that feed and generate smart systems are open and public with a reciprocal benefit for the local authority and the general public. The Council also commits to ensuring that all the technologies applied act in a licit, ethical and robust manner. Finally, in order to guarantee all those aspects, a data and algorithm strategy will have to be approved in the coming months containing and explaining all the principles, values and citizen rights that the City Council will have to uphold in the municipal use of artificial intelligence. It will be a pioneering document among European cities. 


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