Cities for Digital Rights

How do we protect civil rights in fast digitising cities?

The internet has become indispensable in our daily lives. It is where we meet, learn and shop. It is also an essential tool for achieving equality, justice and fairness. But who is behind the buttons? Where are digital rights under pressure and how do we safeguard civil rights? During the Cities for digital rights conference we talk about the dilemmas and we look for solutions together with citizens and policy makers. Digital rights are an ongoing global challenge, with the cities in the front line. In cities we are confronted with the impact of large technology companies. Here it is often the first to feel what people need and what it is all about.

Citizens’ rights are threatened in public places, at home and at work when technologies with limited legal or technical protection are used. Newspaper headlines are about digital abuse, the misuse of information: freedom of expression is censored; personal information, including our movements and communication, is stored without consent; social media is increasingly being intimidated and incited to hatred. This can undermine democratic processes and the public opinion.

Cities often serve as laboratories of new technologies for new products from startups and large technology companies. Technology makes life easier for residents, but the rights of citizens are under pressure: data is collected everywhere and the decisions made by algorithms are not transparent.


09.20 – 11.35 uur   Ochtendprogramma

This conference is in Dutch, with the exception of the international speakers in the morning section of the programme.


The Cities for digital rights conference consists of a morning programme with keynotes from national and international speakers, including Bianca Wylie, digital rights activist in Toronto and CTOs from cities such as London and Helsinki. Touria Meliani, Digital City Amsterdam alderman, opens the conference and gives an overview of the Digital City Agenda that was recently published.

Confirmed speakers are:

  • Touria Meliani (Digital City Councilor, Municipality of Amsterdam)
  • Bianca Wylie (digital civil rights activist at Digital Rights Now)
  • Marleen Stikker (co-founder and director of Waag)
  • Ger Baron (Chief Technology Officer Municipality of Amsterdam)
  • Mikko Rusama (Chief Digital Officer Helsinki)
  • Theo Blackwell (Chief Digital Officer London)
  • Roberta Cocco (Councillor for Digital Transformation and Citizens Services Milan)

The afternoon programme consists of an ‘open space’; with workshops, artistic interventions and debates in which the question of “how do we protect civil rights in rapidly digitising cities?” In the program we explicitly bring different groups together; from citizens, civil rights activists, artists to (international) policymakers.

11.40 – 12.45 uur   Lunch


12.45 – 16.30 uur

The break-out sessions are in Dutch or English,


For a free and inclusive city citizens need to be at the centre of digital developments. How can digital rights help to protect and empower citizens? Learn how we can shape the digital city from a citizen perspective.

This track discusses how we can make citizens centre stage in shaping digital cities. In face of AI, surveillance and the large scale use of civic data citizens are losing their right to a free city. What strategies do we have to protect, but also empower citizens with digital rights?


Smart charging stations, cameras with facial recognition, GPS tracking and algorithms that calculate the most favorable traffic routes for you. Cities are digitizing rapidly, which means a renewed focus on what that means for the protection of human rights. This track looks at ethical dilemmas in the digital city and focuses on tools, guidelines and telling examples that can help you make informed decisions or form your opinion.


How do we work together internationally to help cities around the world protect civil rights? This track focuses on the international perspective. How do you safeguard civil rights in digitized cities worldwide? How do we deal with the international focus on ethical issues in relation to technology? We see an international coalition as a powerful discussion partner for tech companies. In this track we investigate this international cooperation on this subject.


Critical citizens play an important role in a vital society. Now that the dilemmas in our living environment are becoming more and more complicated due to increasing digitization, it is important that people stay alert and contribute to an inclusive and honest society where everyone can participate. This track is intended to support citizens’ initiatives and offers room for matchmaking between funds and initiatives that deal with digitization and civil rights. A number of funds will therefore be available to look for new initiatives that can strengthen the position of citizens.


Image: ©Alphons Nieuwenhuis

Made possible by

  • Urban Conference

Wednesday 19 June 09.30 - 16.30
Zuiderkerk, Zuiderkerkhof 72, 1011 WB, Amsterdam

CAUTION: Limited places available. After purchasing a ticket, a reservation is also required.

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