Digital rights charter of the City of Brussels
What does this charter involve?
In 2022-2023, the City developped one of the four pilot projects of the Digital Rights Governance Framework (within the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights) and at the same time carried out a study of digital inclusion on its territory. Resulting from these two projects, the City of Brussels launched, in October 2023, a human rights in the digital sphere charter, which includes both the commitments that the City wishes to make on this matter and a list of actions to reflect these commitments. Existing initiatives are included to highlight what is already being done at City level, and to make people aware of existing solutions that are sometimes little-known. It also sets out new actions to be implemented in order to achieve concrete targets in this area by 2030.
What is its objective?
The City aims to promote a human-centred vision of technology, in which digital tools and innovation can help build a more cohesive, dynamic and inclusive society. The City wishes to protect and promote digital human rights and reduce the digital divide, which can be defined as: “The gap between those who have access to and use Information and Communications Technology (ICT), including internet connectivity, internet-enabled devices and digital culture skills, and those who do not have access or know how to use them". (Source: UN-Habitat).
Why is this important?
There are various factors that can lead to digital exclusion. Everyone may be confronted with it at some point in their lives. Inequalities when it comes to digital technology are factors that exacerbate the difficulty of accessing certain rights (bonuses, training, subsidies, complaints, etc.)
What's does it contain and how does it help me as a citizen?
Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the commitments and actions taken from the charter, which can be found in its entirety HERE.
Chapter 1: Digital Inclusion, Solidarity, Equality and Equity
- The city is committed to assessing the digital divide within its territory so that its actions can be better targeted to help its citizens.
- Every year, the City organises various digital rights-related events, including various free activities during Digital Week in October. Keep up to date!
- The City also wants to ensure that everyone has access to an internet connection by increasing the number of Wi-Fi points available throughout its territory. A social tariff has been introduced for landline connections.
- The City is committed to offering a range of training and support services that enable residents to acquire basic and advanced skills, in particular by supporting educational and training establishments such as digital public spaces and community centres, amongst others, as well as by providing pupils in the City's state schools with appropriate training from an early age.
- The City also assists people with disabilities, who can call the freephone number 0800 18 811 to get support in accessing online services from the City's Equal Opportunities Unit.
- A number of other initiatives target other groups of citizens: the elderly, women, marginalised people, young people, etc.
Chapter 2: Transparency, Accountability and Freedom of Choice
- The City undertakes to give citizens a choice in the way they communicate with the administrative centre (online or offline) through an omni-channel approach that allows them to contact the City via the MyBXL online platform, by telephone, or in person at a physical counter in the administrative centre.
- The City is committed to developing projects to increase the collection, sharing and use of public sector data in accordance with the City of Brussels' data strategy, in particular through the sharing of data via the City's Open Data platform.
- The City undertakes to develop clauses, protocols and registers concerning artificial intelligence in order to ensure that the algorithms developed or purchased by the City are supervised throughout their life cycle (from purchase to implementation and updating), and that they are safe and do not violate human rights in accordance with the UNESCO's Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.
Chapter 3: Participation in the Digital Public Space
- The City is committed to developing a culture of participation both online and offline throughout the City's administration.
- For example, the city uses a cargo bike to consult citizens.
Chapter 4: Privacy, Data Protection, Safety and Security
- The City is committed to educating and raising awareness among children and young people attending the City of Brussels’ state schools through training on security, data protection and autonomy in accessing and using digital tools, as well as on the safe and responsible use of computers made available by these schools.
- The City is committed to providing all residents with access to workshops (outside schools) to learn how to browse safely in an online environment, to raise awareness of the need to protect their human rights both online and offline, and to make informed choices.
Chapter 5: Sustainability
By signing the Belgian Institute for Responsible Digital Technology (ISIT)’s Sustainable IT Charter and in line with the EU's digital rights principle of sustainable development, the City ensures that as many of its digital products and services as possible are designed, produced, used, disposed of and recycled in such a way as to minimise their negative impact from an economic, environmental and social point of view.
In particular by:
- Implementing sustainable IT purchasing practices
- Reconditioning obsolete equipment, etc.
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