B. Technology in service of democracy and fundamental rights

6. Prioritise technology that connects people. Nurture dialogue.

Technology can set people apart, but it can also strengthen community values. A city wanting to promote encounters and connectedness tries to prevent technology from isolating us from our fellow citizens. It does not allow a street to be taken over by Airbnb tourists. In the future, it will provide the self-driving shared car with as much space as needed to replace the private car, but it will prevent public transport, cycling, and walking from being pushed out.[1]

Such a city uses technology to bring citizens together, for instance through a website where they can request or offer neighbourly assistance.

BUUV[2] is a digital platform that allows people to ask for assistance from other people in their neighbourhood: a ride to the doctor, an odd job in the house, walking the dog or just providing companionship. There is no quid pro quo. Some participants exclusively offer assistance. For people with few digital skills, BUUV has installed notice boards at meeting points in the city.
BUUV started out in the city of Haarlem and is now active in ten Dutch municipalities. The cost is shared by these municipalities. The return of BUUV is an increase in social capital: participants gain trust in other people.

Dialogue between citizens can be fostered by platforms and apps that allow them to submit neighbourhood improvement plans, on the condition that their idea has sufficient supporters. Only through consultation with neighbours can the plan become a real citizens' initiative that requires a response from the municipality.[4]

Discussing, convincing and being convinced, giving and taking, fighting and making peace belong to life. Technology that makes these crucial social skills superfluous does not exist, and we should not wish for it.

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Further viewing

Video: My Knowle West: a local social network


[1] See principle 15
[2] BUUV
[3] Emy Sloot, BUUV: A Community to Understand Social Capital, master thesis University of Amsterdam, 2017
[4] See for instance Locali (in Dutch) and Frankfurt fragt mich (in German)

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Gerard Freriks

See my answer to item 5

Lucie Evers

Two sided platforms are fine only if ownership of software and data are wel organized. That’s basically the difference between extractive or contributive models of software that has more or less the same function, that is connecting people in every way or role possible.

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