Article by Eliza McCullough: “….Instead of a smart city model that extracts from, surveils, and displaces poor people of color, we need a democratic model that allows community members to decide how technological infrastructure operates and to ensure the equitable distribution of benefits. Doing so will allow us to create cities defined by inclusion, shared ownership, and shared prosperity.
In 2016, Barcelona, for example, launched its Digital City Plan, which aims to empower residents with control of technology used in their communities. The document incorporates over 8,000 proposals from residents and includes plans for open source software, government ownership of all ICT infrastructure, and a pilot platform to help citizens maintain control over their personal data. As a result, the city now has free applications that allow residents to easily propose city development ideas, actively participate in city council meetings, and choose how their data is shared.
In the U.S., we need a framework for tech sovereignty that incorporates a racial equity approach: In a racist society, race neutrality facilitates continued exclusion and exploitation of people of color. Digital Justice Lab in Toronto illustrates one critical element of this kind of approach: access to information. In 2018, the organization gave community groups a series of grants to hold public events that shared resources and information about digital rights. Their collaborative approach intentionally focuses on the specific needs of people of color and other marginalized groups.
The turn toward intensified surveillance infrastructure in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak makes the need to adopt such practices all the more crucial. Democratic tech models that uplift marginalized populations provide us the chance to build a city that is just and open to everyone….(More)”.