Digital technology is transforming every area of society at a rapid pace. Across cities and metropolitan spaces, digital disruption has sped up significantly due to a higher concentration of people, economic activities, services and social and cultural interactions, and it is reshaping day-to-day life in many ways. The effects of digital technology on urban environments include cities becoming hubs for data production, service provision being increasingly automated, new models of participation and engagement emerging for city dwellers, and new technological solutions being tested and deployed. Digital disruption offers many opportunities, but also brings about many risks related to human rights violations and increased inequality, which can have harmful effects on individuals and communities if the necessary policies and governance mechanisms are not put in place.
Cities, as the closest democratic institutions to inhabitants, need enhanced models of governance to manage the opportunities and risks driven by technology and ensure that digital rights—which are ultimately human rights in the digital space—are protected and promoted. It has become crucial to put the perspective of inhabitants at the forefront, as such a governance model can only work if people are aware of what their ‘digital human rights’ are when interacting with the city.
With the ultimate goal of ensuring that human rights in the digital space are given the same consideration as universal human rights in the near future, the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, together with UN-Habitat, UCLG and Eurocities, in partnership with Open Society Foundations, are developing a Digital Rights Governance Framework: a normative yet pragmatic framework for the city-wide implementation of digital rights, which sets out the foundations, structures and tools that cities put in place to ensure digital rights in cities are protected and promoted.
During the session “The governance of digital rights in cities: a local and global challenge”, city leaders and organisations will illustrate how digital rights are about centering people in the digital transformation and ensuring technology is used to promote sustainable urbanisation and inclusive smart cities. The event is a tremendous opportunity to illustrate what the people-centered approach can represent in practice, through various ways technology is deployed, procured and developed. UN-Habitat will present the Digital Rights Governance Framework and explain how it is being implemented in 4 European cities. Representatives from these cities will share the key takeaways from their local experiences, and representatives from other regions outside Europe will reflect on how such a framework could be implemented in their areas.