Published: October 2021
Author(s): Igor Calzada

New data-driven technologies in global cities have yielded potential but also have intensified techno-political concerns. Consequently, in recent years, several declarations/manifestos have emerged across the world claiming to protect citizens’ digital rights. In 2018, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and NYC city councils formed the Cities’ Coalition for Digital Rights (CCDR), an international alliance of global People-Centered Smart Cities—currently encompassing 49 cities worldwide—to promote citizens’ digital rights on a global scale. People-centered smart cities programme is the strategic flagship programme by UN-Habitat that explicitly advocates the CCDR as an institutionally innovative and strategic city-network to attain policy experimentation and sustainable urban development. Against this backdrop and being inspired by the popular quote by Hannah Arendt on “the right to have rights”, this article aims to explore what “digital rights” may currently mean within a sample consisting of 13 CCDR global people-centered smart cities: Barcelona, Amsterdam, NYC, Long Beach, Toronto, Porto, London, Vienna, Milan, Los Angeles, Portland, San Antonio, and Glasgow. Particularly, this article examines the (i) understanding and the (ii) prioritisation of digital rights in 13 cities through a semi-structured questionnaire by gathering 13 CCDR city representatives/strategists’ responses. These preliminary findings reveal not only distinct strategies but also common policy patterns.

Keywords
digital rights, smart cities, people-centered smart cities, social innovation, institutional innovation, technological innovation, policy experimentation, action research, online research, COVID-19