Mainstreaming Human Rights in the Digital Transformation of Cities – A Guide for Local Governments

People living in cities around the world use a wide range of municipal services on a regular basis. Services provided to residents such as garbage collection, the provision of playgrounds, parking spaces, streetlights, affordable housing, social support and public transport all require a local government that is committed to facilitating good quality of life in the city. As city governments undergo digital transformation, the digital and physical aspects of the city become more closely connected with digital technologies being used to deliver services, manage urbanisation processes and communicate with residents. In some aspects it is becoming difficult to distinguish between offline and online services. This online and offline connectedness is impacting public life in our cities and affects different groups across communities differently. The use of digital technologies, platforms and data by governments and the private sector affect urban residents, sometimes in unforeseen or unintended ways. For example, young women may face cultural and gender-related barriers that prevent their access to the internet and technology. Ethnic minorities and people on low incomes have high demand for the internet, but often struggle with lack of affordability. Such groups lack not only access, they also experience lower quality of digital services. This publication refers to human rights in the digital context as ‘digital rights’. These are not new human rights. ‘Digital’ rights are interpreted as existing human rights which need to be protected in the context of digital technologies, as physical and digital spaces are increasingly intertwined. Digital rights assess how digital technology affects previously recognized rights – i.e., civil, political, economical, social and cultural rights. These rights form the basis of commitments described in this report and emphasise a culture for more inclusive and responsible use of technology.

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