Inter City Digital Pop Up

Since 2021, the Edgelands Institute has embarked on a journey to understand and redefine the urban social contract in the face of increasing reliance on digital technologies for security and safety. Through temporary residencies or "pop-ups" in four cities, we've collaborated with local residents to delve into how digital transformations are reshaping societal agreements and coexistence.

Our interactions with various stakeholders in each of these cities over the past two years have deepened our understanding of the urban social contract. Here are some of the key lessons we have learned from each city:

  • Medellín. Through our research in Medellín, we have discovered that coexistence plays a vital role in the broader concept of security. It is not limited to crime control, but encompasses the safety and well-being of individuals within the society. This approach emphasizes the importance of fostering trust and strengthening the relationship between individuals and the state.
  • Cúcuta. In our study of Cúcuta, we have found that involving local people in humanitarian efforts and projects is crucial. This involvement can take place both as beneficiaries and as recipients of international aid. By including the local population in aid projects, we have observed that it improves the perception and inclusion of migrants. This, in turn, leads to enhanced security and social cohesion within the city.
  • Nairobi. The Nairobi team emphasized the importance of understanding existing systems of governance, because they affect how we view security. For example, while some counties may have administrative independence over revenue collection, resource distribution, etc., security sector decision-making is largely a national matter and may veto local administrative decisions on internal security.
  • Geneva. Our research in Geneva has highlighted the importance of redefining the conventional notion of the urban social contract to include private companies. This is due to their significant role in the security landscape, providing essential technical services and tools relied upon by individuals, governments, and law enforcement. It also underlines the importance of cooperation between public institutions, private companies, and civil society organisations in defining the roles and responsibilities of each actor involved.

We believe that creating spaces where people can share different perspectives and experiences is key to fostering an inclusive dialogue about the agreements and trade-offs we need to make to live together in the digital age.

That is why we are bringing the Edgelands network together for an intercity dialogue in 2024. This dialogue will be an opportunity to exchange experiences, observations and solutions from each city, as well as from the perspectives of different stakeholders within these cities.

In this context, digital integrity encompasses the right to be protected in digital spaces, including safeguarding personal data, ensuring security online, and promoting digital inclusion. Inspired by Geneva's introduction of a right to digital integrity, our project aims to explore its implications for urban social contracts around security globally.

Within this framework of digital integrity, we can think of the interaction of security and digital technologies along three dimensions:

  1. Urban Security
    This includes the use of digital technologies by police and law enforcement agencies to enhance public safety in cities.
  2. Safety and Trust in the Digital Space
    This includes protection from various harms facilitated by digital technologies, such as cyberbullying, non-consensual sharing of intimate images and cyberstalking. It also includes protection from targeting and surveillance practices that may violate fundamental rights.
  3. Security and Physical Control of Infrastructure and Data
    This includes the critical issue of ensuring the security of the digital infrastructure that individuals rely on for their daily activities.

Through these conversations, we aim to explore how these dimensions manifest themselves in each of the Edgelands cities, and to learn from each other's experiences. By fostering dialogue and exchange, we hope to build a collective understanding of this crucial issue.

Follow the intercity pop-up as we explore these three dimensions through four specific themes:

  • Use of AI to Provide Security as a public service: We will explore whether governments should use AI to provide security along each dimension and, if so, how it should be implemented.
  • Transparency: Transparency plays a critical role in building trust and understanding among individuals, governments, and private companies.****
  • Urban Social Contract and Security (Stakeholders Responsibilities): Understanding the roles and responsibilities of individuals, governments, and private companies is critical to understanding and reimagining new urban social contracts.
  • Trade-offs that arise when considering strategic autonomy and sovereignty: Striking a balance between autonomy and cooperation is essential for creating a secure digital landscape.

Discover more about our project by reading our latest blog posts!

  1. La Virgen Maria is Watching You | Edgelands Medellín Symposium Wrap-Up
  2. Digital Integrity Bingo
  3. Four AI Systems Features for Transparent Tech Governance: Insights from the Second Digital Intercity Pop-Up Conversation

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