Citizens’ digital rights must be placed at the centre of cities’ digital policies and protected through the implementation of technological sovereignty and digital democracy policies.
Citizens’ digital rights include the rights of privacy, security, information self-determination and neutrality, giving citizens a choice about what happens to their digital identity, who uses their data online, and for which purposes. Digital democracy enables more citizen participation in design and governance of cities and city services.
With increasing reliance on the internet comes the need to protect and respect basic human rights for all in the digital realm. Globally, six out of ten people are not connected to the internet, and violation of human rights including shutdowns, targeting of activists and journalists for their online activities, collection of personal data without consent, and digital surveillance persist.
A key aspect for preserving citizens’ digital rights is technological sovereignty that helps cities protect citizens’ rights through greater accessibility, transparency and accountability required for open government.
Technological sovereignty for cities means full control and autonomy of their Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs), including service infrastructures, websites, applications and data, in compliance with and with the support of laws that protect the interests of municipalities and their citizens.
In order to protect human rights principles such as privacy, freedom of expression, and democracy and incorporate them by design in the digital technologies that people use, the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights was born.
The coalition, formed by Amsterdam, Barcelona and New York in November 2018 and now supported by UN-Habitat, UN Office of Human Rights, UCLG and Eurocities, aims to protect and uphold human rights on the internet at the local and global level. The Coalition aims to share best practices, learn from each other’s challenges and successes, and coordinate common initiatives and actions. Inspired by the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition (IRPC), the work of 300 international stakeholders over the past ten years, the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights are committed to the following five evolving principles:
Join the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights here: https://citiesfordigitalrights.orgDownload toolkit
Open City Data is a necessary element of technological sovereignty and must be managed and provided in an ethical, transparent, accessible and sustainable manner.
As well as supporting local innovation, Open City Data empowers citizens and enables better data-driven decision making in cities and, by providing visibility and accountability, induces more trust in local government and greater citizen engagement in policy making.
Municipal data is a strategic resource that enables local government to carry out its mission and its programs effectively. Appropriate access to municipal data significantly improves the value of the information and the return on the investment involved in generating it. Municipal data is also a means of ensuring accountability and transparency, promoting openness and public participation in government, while providing actionable insights for the government.
The goal of this new data management model is to enhance the value of the city’s public information data and infrastructure, and guarantee (as an essential requirement) privacy and responsible use of the data associated with the public and the use of municipal public services. The goal is to provide a public and open data infrastructure for the development of innovative data-driven applications aimed at better access to public services and improved quality of life while guaranteeing data sovereignty for the public.
Adding value to the data and turning it into a public good, with the aim of promoting accountability and citizens’ rights, requires new actions, new integrated procedures in an organic, transparent and cross-departmental way. A comprehensive governance strategy makes it possible to promote this revision and avoid redundancies, increased costs, inefficiency and bad practices.
Principles to follow designing the city’s data strategy:
Technology procurement refers to any process for the purchase, maintenance or improvement of any element associated with the following areas:
Cities should promote sustainable public procurement which includes social, environmental, ethical and innovation measures in the clauses and purpose of the municipal contracts. Contracts should be executive in a way to guarantee the labor, social, and citizen’s rights of the people who execute the public contract and of the recipients or users of said contract. Furthermore, said procurement should promote a local circular and sustainable economy, as well as foster the economic activity of local small, medium and micro- enterprises and, particularly, social enterprises:
Innovative public procurement
Innovation should be strongly considered in connection to economic, social and environmental sustainability as a multiplying element, which helps create employment and economic growth, strengthens social and environmental values, while also supporting innovative companies that solve citizens’ challenges.
Public procurement for innovation is a new way of contracting services and negotiating with the market in order to respond to needs that cannot be solved through ordinary processes. It is using public money to buy what we need, while trying to spend that money strategically so as to reach our goals of improving and satisfying citizens’ needs, and strengthening innovation and sustainability. This new approach to public procurement is designed to be a fundamental tool for cities to obtain solutions that are much better adapted to the real demands of society and to help companies be more competitive. We hope to stimulate the creation of new local markets, new products, new production methods and new ways to organize or provide services.
In practice, PPI begins with an open definition of the challenges and needs to be addressed, and offers the market the opportunity to explain how the problem can be solved, whether with existing solutions or not. These solutions must offer good value for money and consider the life cycle to calculate and determine costs. This practice positions the City Council with a role beyond that of purchaser to become a partner in solving the challenge identified.
We must shift from public procurements with very detailed technical specifications and which are often awarded to the lowest bidder, to procurements that are based on the definition of challenges and innovative, sustainable solutions; this will often involve multiple players. This new approach allows us to identify new ideas and innovative solutions that deliver efficiency. A simple example would be to buy light instead of lampposts, or to buy hours of writing instead of pens.
Thus, the City Council is positioning itself as a driver of innovation in the market
and a testing ground for its procurements by acquiring the results of research instead
of subsidizing pilot trials which often have difficulty scaling their impact. Other
key elements of PPI are risk, cost efficiency, collaboration between entities, and
ensuring that benefits are shared.
Innovative and responsible procurement in Europe:
Barcelona Innovative Public Procurement:
Free Software, Open Data and Open Standards, Document and Data formats and communication protocols are the bases for technological sovereignty for cities and best support the digital rights of our citizens.
Free Software, Open Data and Open Standards, Formats and Protocols provide cities and citizens with tools enabling non-discriminatory access to and provision of digital services. This is not just a technology paradigm, but a culture that helps individuals and communities to protect their digital rights as well as to achieve innovation and reach goals that are beneficial for society in a collaborative manner. The mandatory adoption of Open Standards, Document and Data formats and Communication Protocols will improve transparency, coordination between public authorities and collaboration with the private sector.
Shared, open cross-government standards, formats and protocols make services better for users and cheaper to run. Open standards simplify access to information by all organisations and individuals that want to participate in the City’s development.
Cities should publish the components of their ICT service infrastructures and share them with other cities, to allow for wider participation in improving these shared components, individually or collectively. All components of city ICTs should conform to open standards, document and data formats and communication protocols.
Free Software provides a solid foundation to achieve better levels of efficiency, stability and interoperability required for cities’ ICT platforms, through source code ownership, collaborative development and sharing, all of which enable participation in digital services’ security, validation and improvement.
Municipal investment and participation in Free Software projects help develop local skills and contribute to technologies which can reinforce citizens’ digital rights while bringing benefits to the local economy. Free Software offers value for money in terms of long term sustainability and local economic development that is greater than any short term financial gains. The main benefit expected from using and developing free software is that the city regains or maintains control of their digital infrastructures.
It is crucial for an entity that implements public services and processes a lot of information about citizens to know exactly what it is being executed, in what computers, who has access to the data, etc. As the GNU project puts it: "The state needs to insist on free software in its own computing for the sake of its computational sovereignty (the state’s control over its own computing). All users deserve control over their computing, but the state has a responsibility to the people to maintain control over the computing it does on their behalf. Most government activities now depend on computing, and its control over those activities depends on its control over that computing. Losing this control in an agency whose mission is critical undermines national security."— Richard Stallman.
Measures Governments Can Use to Promote Free Software:
Actions to achieve these Goals:
Cities shall develop and implement a digital rights and equality agenda, track and monitor the respect for citizens’ digital rights, and jointly create tools and resources to help advance this effort.
Cities shall procure ICT services based on Free Software and consider non-Free offers when a Free Software based offer is not available. Procurement of components for Cities ICT infrastructures shall enable offers based on Free Software and shall award projects to Free Software based offers when submitted.
Cities shall review and publish as Free Software existing components of its ICT Infrastructure in which it holds the rights to do so. In addition, Cities shall identify those elements of its ICT infrastructure that are opportunities for implementing with or substituting by Free Software.
Cities shall use hardware resources controlled by the City itself adopting appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure the protection of their citizens’ and visitors’ data and privacy.
Cities shall pool their ICT Infrastructure budgets for common procurement of Free Software technologies and services, and tools for publishing Open Data sets.
Cities shall develop internally appropriate Free Software and Open Data related skills to achieve autonomous management of their ICT infrastructures and services.
Cities shall promote and support local Free Software and Open Data based enterprise and community through developing skills, encouraging networking, supporting Free Software and Open Data enterprise, user groups and events, and providing financial and other types of resources.
Cities shall support and encourage the development of Free Software, Open Data and Digital Rights curricula in their municipal area educational institutions, to create a culture of openness and collaboration that will then support the cities’ ICT policies for the future.
Cities shall review and publish as Open data all non-confidential or private data generated by municipal ICTs and provide platforms for other entities to do the same, to promote a transparent and collaborative relationship between city government and citizens.