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 they may also present threats to civil liberties and to social justice, especially where smart city solutions are pushed by big tech companies. The smart city should not be an end in itself. A smart city is only really smart if data collection and artificial intelligence are 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.
The Charter was developed in 2019 through a series of roundtables in various European cities, from Brno to Oslo, as well as an online consultation. The drafters of the Charter would like to express their gratitude to the hundred-plus experts, (local) politicians and activists who have shared their ideas. If this Charter brings some wisdom to the smart city, it is thanks to their contributions.
Click on a principle to read the explanation
Democratising the development of technology
Technology in service of democracy and fundamental rights
Technology in support of green and social values
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.
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.