‘Cities need to expand their capacities so as to be prepared and equipped to lead digital transformation strategies that are people-centered and support sustainable urbanization towards the public good’
Digital technologies influence change at a fast pace in society, and might have harmful impact on individuals and communities. Against this backdrop, cities need enhanced models of governance to manage opportunities and risks driven by technology and ensure digital rights, which ultimately are human rights in the digital space, are protected and promoted. Cities need to expand their capacities so as to be prepared and equipped to lead digital transformation strategies that are people-centered and support sustainable urbanization towards the public good.
The deployment of digital solutions in cities, especially in geographies where the discussion of ethics and inclusion in technology is less developed, must have transparency, accountability and community participation at the forefront of its practices, in order to ensure that considerations over human rights in the digital space become as evident as universal human rights in the near future.
This project, developed by the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, together with UN-Habitat, UCLG and Eurocities, in partnership with Open Society Foundation, intends to expand cities capacities so as to be prepared and equipped to lead digital transformation strategies that are people-centered and support sustainable urbanization towards the public good. The project has of two main components aimed at fostering digital rights in a principled and practical way:
The Digital Rights Governance Framework will be piloted in Brussels, in Belgium, Dublin, in Ireland, Sofia, in Bulgaria and Tirana, in Albania. These cities will work with experts in digital governance to co-create, design and pilot a Digital Rights Governance Framework. They will receive technical advice, ad hoc support, and advisory input to address the pressing challenges related to the ethical and digital rights aspects of their local digital strategies and projects.
Brussels, Belgium. Brussels is the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium with a population of 2,109,319 millions of inhabitants. The city is in the middle of a significant digital transition and it is committed to protect digital rights and reducing the digital divide. In parallel with its “Smart City Strategy, data strategy and digital transformation” programme (BXL2021 program), Brussels aims at defining a clear action plan, to promote digital inclusion and defining core areas for the protection of digital rights.
Dublin, Ireland. Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland with a population of 544.107 of inhabitants. Through the “Smart Dublin” initiative, the city is addressing city challenges by introducing new and emerging technologies. Dublin aims at prototyping and developing a foundational educational module on digital rights, to promote the principles of ethics and privacy relating to new and emerging technologies.
Sofia, Bulgaria. Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and the 14th largest capital in Europe with a population of 1,549,465 millions of inhabitants. The city is rapidly becoming an innovative, tech, green and entrepreneurial hub. Sofia aims at expanding its capacities, developing new human-centered services and raising awareness about the importance of digital transformation and human rights in the digital environment. Sofia aims at developing an assessment methodology to expand digital rights and awareness.
Tirana, Albania. Tirana is the largest city and capital of Albania, with a population of 912 190 inhabitants. Under the programme “ Activate Youth” the city has been promoting the active participation of young people, and supporting the digital transformation by focusing on solidarity and inclusion. Tirana aims at building capacity in transparency and accountability while also developing a digital rights agenda for the city.
The Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, launched by the Cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona. and New York in November 2018 and now with a membership of over 50 cities worldwide, is a network of cities helping each other in the greenfield of digital rights based policy-making. The Coalition is committed to promoting and defending digital rights in urban context through city action, to resolve common digital challenges and work towards legal, ethical and operational frameworks to advance human rights in digital environments. United in spirit and ambition, the Coalition supports principled actions and pragmatic guidance through city-to-city collaboration.
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, is the United Nations agency working towards a better urban future. In close coordination with national and local governments, the agency leads the monitoring of SDG11 on sustainable cities and communities as well as the New Urban Agenda. In its Strategic Plan 2020-2023 and in the New Urban Agenda, frontier technologies are driving forces for inclusion and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, but require proper governance, mechanisms and capacity to address inequalities and leave no one behind in digital transformation strategies.