Discover our new member
The Cities Coalition for Digital Rights (CC4DR) is pleased to welcome Niterói as a new member. The Brazilian city, counting more than 515 000 inhabitants, is located at the crossroads between the South Atlantic ocean and Guanabara bay, in front of Rio de Janeiro.
In order to highlight & discover Niterói’s work related to digital human rights, we met Daniel Gaspar, the director of Digital Services, Citizenship & transparency for the Niterói City Hall, who explained to us how he and his team are promoting an accessible and people-centred digital transformation and and why the city decided to join the CC4DR.
After participating in the City & Digital rights project - an initiative of UN-HABITAT, CAF & UNIT, with the aim to support three cities in Latin America (Niterói, Mexico & Medellin)-the city became acquainted with the CC4DR and was immediately interested to join the coalition. Painted as an important space to promote debate and exchange practices among local public administrations, the coalition was seen as an opportunity for the municipality to cooperate with cities worldwide facing the same challenges in promoting digital rights. According to Daniel Gaspar, such a network also “serves as motivation for public servants in participating cities to continue fighting for the guarantee and promotion of digital rights initiatives in the local context”.
Towards inclusive digital services, respectful of human rights
With the ambition of creating an innovative and sustainable city environment in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, Niterói launched in 2023 their municipal digital strategy, setting key objectives and outcomes that must be achieved by 2033. The core of the strategy is to guide the digital transformation to accessible and people centred public services and promote digital services respectful of human rights.
The strategy also aims to make the city “more connected, integrated, efficient” by developing inclusive policies, accessible and qualitative services. The vision is structured under 5 principles:
Integrated & people focused
- Open & transparent
- Secure & trustworthy
- Efficient & Intelligent
- Inclusive & accessible
Launch of Niterói's Digital Government Strategy
Developed to address social and digital challenges, such as the digital inclusion of the poorest, women and elderly people, Niterói’s digital strategy will focus on reducing school drop out by promoting technological education projects. a lot of Latin American cities must deal with a high dropout rate of students from their schools. It is particularly the case in Brazil since the Covid-19, which increased the delay of students in their education trajectory.
An ambitious plan in data transparency
Niterói is particularly known for its advanced policies in data transparency. For example, the city developed indicators and established regulation on data transparency, earning the first place of the federal transparency ranking since 2018. The policy is implemented through a transparency portal (which is an obligation in Brazil for federal, state and municipal governments), allowing society to track the use of resources, information about leading procedures and detailed expenses. To achieve its objectives in terms of digital inclusion, the city has been conducting studies with researchers and universities to develop tools and make the portal more accessible and user-friendly.
Simple Language In Services Workshop for Niterói City Hall Teams
A leading example of citizen’s involvement in digital governance
According to Daniel Gaspar, the municipality “will need to involve the population in digital governance” to achieve its missions. This vision of local democracy led Niterói to develop several initiatives, such as the creation of a digital transformation forum. The project, launched this summer, should ensure democratic participation, transparency and social control into the city’s digital transformation. It will also guarantee digital inclusion of the city’s population: “to guarantee accessibility we need to design policies that respect diversity of individuals and are non-discriminatory”.
Concretely, the forum will be a space where public servants and social organisations will discuss the developments of the actions planned by the Digital services department. Through the forum’s website, social organisations and researchers can fill a form to express their interest in participating in the forum. Nevertheless, each meeting will be public and announced so that any organisation willing to discuss the development and the status of this initiative will be welcome.
Another example of participatory democracy is the dashboard of indicators project, developed in partnership with Columbia university. The city aims to enhance social control over the municipality's transparency policy by allowing citizens to make information access requests, which the municipality has to answer. This dashboard is complemented by a Committee of public transparency and social control, equally composed by social organisations and municipality’s departments. The actors meet and discuss major issues raised by civil society organisations, debate and review the project developed by the administration.
A city involved in international cooperation
The city has experience with international cooperation in the digital field. Through the city & digital rights project in Latin America, Niterói created a methodology for digital transformation, focusing mostly on digitalisation of public services. The project included design of services flows, conduction of user research and evaluation of digital transformation’s impact. Through mentorship from public managers and leaders of digital organisations, the three cities(Medellin, Mexico and Niterói) incorporated a human right dimension in their digital services. A significant achievement on this matter is the development of a guide for digital services and human rights. Planned to be launched in October 2023, the guide will provide recommendations regarding the protection of personal data, democratic participation in service design, use of simple & inclusive language, and the importance of transparency in service indicators.
The CC4DR is pleased to Welcome Niterói as a member and is looking forward to learning from their experience in inclusive service-design,, transparency processes and democratic participation initiatives!