The world is rapidly urbanizing. In 2008, the important milestone of more than 50 percent of the world’s population living in urban areas was reached, a figure that is estimated to rise to 70 percent by 2050. At the same time, the world is rapidly becoming more digital. Data, artificial intelligence, connectivity and the new digital economy are shaping the future of our societies. Digital technologies have the potential to serve people, improve public services and working conditions. But persistent digital divides remain, and the digital revolution must be directed and governed in a democratic and inclusive way.

Digital technologies, depending on their use, can be a force that widens social gaps or reduces them. The explosion in digital technologies is playing a major role in shaping cities – from the internet of things, to digital platforms for service delivery and 5G for autonomous mobility – and our challenge is to set a new direction that favors inclusive, resilient and sustainable use of technologies by local governments. These technologies, if well governed, can contribute to sustainable development by reducing carbon emissions and facilitating the ecological transition, increasing access to affordable housing, enhancing participation in policy making for citizens, and ensuring access to inclusive services for communities.

We have a collective responsibility to give direction to new technologies so that we maximize benefits and prevent unintended consequences. For instance, Artificial Intelligence and data can be used for the public good, but can also be used to monitor and manipulate behavior, to manipulate voters, to track human rights defenders and to stifle expressions of dissent. In the absence of public oversight and accountability, data on individuals and communities is being extensively recorded, often by private companies, raising concerns around privacy, surveillance, data sovereignty and individual autonomy. We need to ensure that human rights obligations apply online as they do offline.

The Cities Coalition for Digital Rights is a platform where more than 60 cities globally pledge to shape a digital future that puts people first and helps bridge the social divide. Smart cities should serve the people and improve living conditions for all. The FIABCI-USA Hawaii Council will examine how forward thinking cities are already using digital technologies to improve their cities and the lives of their citizens.

Names and Titles of Speakers

Chungha Cha, Co‐founder & Chair, Re‐Imagining Cities Foundation, Seoul, Korea;
City Officials from Tianfu New Area, Chengdu, China;
City Officials from Legos State Government (Video message);
Jeffrey Daniel Lau, Attorney, Ogawa Lau Nakamura & Jew, Moderator;
Eugenia Foxworth, FIABCI-USA President-Elect;
Jordi Ribó Casanovas, FIABCI World President-Elect (Video message);
Wataru Kawasaki, Program & Planning Officer, UN-Habitat