Twenty-six cities sign up to protect digital rights

1st April 2019 Jonathan Andrews

A coalition of cities formed to protect digital rights is aiming to sign up to 100 cities in 100 days. The coalition marks the first time that cities have come together to protect and promote digital rights on a global level.

Formed in November by foundation members Amsterdam, Barcelona and New York City, Cities for Digital Rights now includes 26 cities. The group has committed to harness technology to provide trustworthy and secure digital services that improve the lives of residents.

“We’ve been collectively working hard to bring visibility to the importance of digital human rights and bringing on other cities,” Alby Bocanegra, Interim Chief Technology Officer, New York City, told Cities Today. “We have been building the structure and capacity of the organisation while reaching out to targeted cities and stakeholders.”

The five key principles followed by Cities for Digital Rights include universal and equal access to the Internet, privacy data protection and security, transparency and accountability, participation, and open and ethical standards.

Bocanegra said that work has begun to connect the 26 members in real time to allow for the exchange of experiences, including challenges and opportunities, and to consult with each other.

“We have weekly calls with founding cities and NGO partners [UN-Habitat, UCLG, UN Human Rights and EUROCITIES],” he added. “Once more cities have joined we will explore leadership opportunities for other cities in particular policy areas and/or related to principles. We are talking about this with Helsinki, Guadalajara, Austin and others.”

Members include Athens, Helsinki, Kansas City, London, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Vienna, and Chicago, among others.

Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer, London

Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London said that as cities are the home of innovation, they have a crucial role in shaping how new technologies can put people first.

“It is right we work closer together to set a progressive, sensible and ethical approach to promote inclusion and the digital rights of our citizens,” said Blackwell.

The next steps include a conference hosted by Helsinki in May focused on transparency and accountability, and in April, New York, Amsterdam, UN Human Rights, and UN-Habitat are planning a forum of which privacy will be key.

“We hope to expand the participation and reach of the coalition as the organisation’s capacity grows and each member city is contributing,” added Bocanegra. “The real promise is for city leaders to be a part of the opportunity to collaborate on new strategies to protect human rights in the digital world.”

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