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Defining digital rights

Between May 17th and June 17th, a group of students from the Utrecht University School of Governance conducted a series of interviews with 14 CC4DR member cities to further define the concept of digital rights as well as to understand how city-governments are currently implementing different measures and policies. In the last monthly CC4DR seminar before the summer we had the opportunity to hear from these students about the findings of their research.

After carrying out the interviews, students found considerable differences in the approach CC4DR cities have for digital rights. Even when these cities shared a common stating point, the commitment to the CC4DR declaration and principles, their context, priorities, and implementation differed quite significantly. This diversity in approaches underscores the openness of the concept of digital rights, and the many forms it can take in practice.

To be able to map all these different forms, the students came up with a framework which classifies cities according to two dimensions: vision and implementation. The vision concerns the general approach cities have towards digital rights, whether it focuses on all dimensions or prioritizes one, and it is divided into three categories: specialist, generalist, or hierarchism. The implementation dimension deals with the degree to which cities have taken measures to protect digital rights and it is divided into emerging, progressing and advancing.

This framework allows cities to reflect on their approach and progress in the implementation of digital rights, using the framework to place themselves into these categories and having a more accurate picture of their development relative to other cities. It also allows the coalition to reflect on the progress of their members and design better knowledge-sharing initiatives and other projects helping each other advance in the defense of digital rights.

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