People make technology. Technology, in turn, influences our lives, our societies and even our ethics. Which decisions may be taken by algorithms instead of by humans? The data collected by sensors in our streets, to whom does it belong? Do we entrust the care of our elderly to robots? These questions concern all of us. The development of new technologies therefore cannot be left to engineers and managers. New technology requires public debate and democratic control.
All over Europe, municipalities want to become ‘smart cities’, front-runners in the use of big data and smart information technology. These technologies observe, decide and act with a certain degree of autonomy: from sensors, to algorithms, to robots. Local politicians might find it hard to keep up to speed with the technologies deployed in and by their city, let alone to weigh the pros and cons before the technological innovations are actually developed and implemented.
Smart technologies offer opportunities for improving the quality of life in cities, for reducing their ecological footprint and for creating new urban commons, but may also present threats to civil liberties and to social justice. Therefore the smart city should not be an goal in itself. Data collection and artificial intelligence must be steered by values.
This Charter for the Smart City puts the values of democracy, connectedness, human dignity, privacy, sustainability and equality at the heart of smart cities. Local politicians and active citizens who share these values, may use the principles in this Charter as starting points for democratic debate and informed moral judgement on technological innovations in their communities.
Click on a principle to read the explanation.
A. Democratising the development of technology
B. Technology in service of democracy and fundamental rights
C. Technology in support of green and social values
16. Recognise the right to meaningful human contact. We cannot outsource the care for others to robots. Contact with citizens at the government office, both online and offline, must hold the potential to lead to changes in government decisions.
17. Combat the social and digital divide. Provide a basic digital service for people with few digital skills. Stand up for the rights of workers and for a fair distribution of income, wealth and housing.
This project is organised by the Green European Foundation with the support of Wetenschappelijk Bureau GroenLinks (NL), Green Economics Institute (UK) and Institute for Active Citizenship (CZ), and with the financial support of the European Parliament to the Green European Foundation.