13 April 2022

In response to the ever-expanding use of digital technologies in cities and need for protection of citizens, the Digital Rights Governance Framework has been created by the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, UN-Habitat, Eurocities and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). This Framework is a valuable example for many Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) cities, especially those confronted with this issue on a daily basis.

As digital technologies grow quickly in our society, it is important to develop models of governance for cities to manage opportunities and risks. These models should ensure that considerations over human rights in the digital space become as evident as universal human rights. To answer this problematic and in addition to the Framework, four European cities were selected for a pilot. Among these four cities is the city of Sofia, participating in the ICC.

The Digital Rights Governance Framework and its use by cities

Considering the digital challenges cities are facing, they must expand their capacities to offer digital transformation strategies that place citizens at the centre. To do so, they can refer to the Framework and the findings of the four pilots’ cities. The Digital Rights Governance Framework provides technical support for the upkeep of human rights in the digital context. This living document should be used as a gathering of foundations, structures and tools designed for cities and created to be adapted depending on local needs and laws.

The Cities Coalition for Digital Rights – the organisation behind the framework - is dedicated to rallying cities in their journey to ensure a better and safer digital transformation. It is created for cities, by cities, to be as close to the reality of their digitalisation as possible. In this regard, such a Framework is useful to cities because it outlines how they can uphold human rights-based approach considering the digitalisation of their services and to some extent of the city. Further, the Coalition has several objectives specifically focused on guiding the cities through their transformation.

The pilot phase and the role of ICC city of Sofia

After an open call for European cities to share their digital rights challenges, the ICC city of Sofia (Bulgaria) has been selected to participate in the pilot along with Dublin (Ireland), Brussels (Belgium) and Tirana (Albania). They will work with experts in digital governance to co-create, design, and pilot a Digital Rights Governance Framework with the objective to make available all toolkits created to other cities. During the pilot phase, they will receive technical advice, ad hoc support, and advisory input in regards with the ethical and digital rights aspects of their local strategies and projects. At the end of the pilot phase, the four cities will have increased their governments’ capacity to advance digital rights in their local contexts and will be sharing their learnings with cities around the world.
The ICC looks forward to seeing the progress with the pilot and the Framework.