The fight for digital sovereignty
- Jan 19
- 2 mins
We are moving towards the digital city. Technology is often identified with progress. It depends on the use to which they are put. Data has become the main infrastructure of the economy and the governance of the digital city. The challenge lies in how to democratise access to it and its ownership, so that citizens always have control of it in an open and distributed city.
We are moving towards the digital city. More and more processes and activities depend on the new information technologies. The internet, the digital revolution and artificial intelligence are changing the way we work and interact. Soon the productive and urban management ecosystem will be very different. Cities are the first to feel the consequences of the fourth industrial revolution, and cities, among them Barcelona, are leading the public debate on these transformations.
Technology is often identified with progress, but not everything that can be done with technologies is good and desirable. It depends on the use to which they are put. The digital revolution can be used to build more open, distributed and inclusive cities but it can also enable a handful of operators to accumulate a huge amount of power that is capable of conditioning life and the private use of common property. It has been said often enough: the biggest private transport company in the world does not own one single car. And the biggest accommodation chain owns no hotel rooms. Uber and Airbnb represent the menacing face of the new platform economy. They are extractive industries with a way of operating that encourages tax avoidance, ignores labour rights and causes the gentrification of city centres. There are also platforms such as Wikipedia, HomeExchange and the Catalan site Wikiloc, which represent quite the opposite: the enormous potential of the truly collaborative economy.
Personal and economic interactions via new technologies yield an immense amount of information that is subject to being used. Data has become the main infrastructure of the economy and the governance of the digital city. The challenge lies in how to democratise access to it and its ownership, so that citizens always have control of it in an open and distributed city, with the use of free open-source software with open standards, accessible to all.
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