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What: Policy orienting document

Impact score: 3

For who: Government, business, non-profit organisations, citizens

URL: Barcelona strategy

The strategy has an eminently practical component: firstly, for promoting human-rights-based AI and secondly, for establishing governance and management mechanisms, such as the creation of a public register of algorithms and the implementation of the corresponding audits to assess their risks.

An important principle in the strategy is technological humanism. This should be understood as a human-centred technological development model which reduces social inequalities, safeguards human rights and puts technology at the service of the people and general interests. This will form the basis of all digital policies in the 2019-2023 term of office. Barcelona is also one of the initiators of the Coalition of Cities for Digital Rights, a network of cities that promotes and defends digital rights in the urban context.

Following other principles are essential:

  • Maintaining and increasing democratic monitoring of AI by public institutions and citizens.
  • Ensuring through transparency and auditability that the algorithmic models and the databases they are applied from follow human-rights and public-interest criteria.
  • Clarifying the liability regime for any harm or loss that may arise from the creation and use of AI-based solutions not just by the Administration but also by companies and developers.

The plan contains twenty initiatives that will be developed during the 2020-2023 period (some initiatives are already in operation), as well as governing principles and technical criteria that will regulate the incorporation of AI into Barcelona City Council.

This basic strategy highlights five specific areas of action:

  • Co-production of public policies

The Municipal Council wants to promote and use data as a public asset. The city will therefore introduce a series of initiatives on ethical and responsible management of data:

  • It will develop ‘Common Data’ as a public digital infrastructure and promote the use of urban data for the common good
  • It will promote the social appropriation and reuse of publicly available open data sets
  • It will collaborate with European institutions to launch a new European data governance model for the public good
  • It will study the bases for establishing comprehensive data-exchange agreements between companies and the City Council (B2G)
  • It will design a new framework for regulating the harnessing of data and municipal information by companies dedicated to exploiting data for financial purposes.

Barcelona City Council will make use of existing communication channels with citizens to provide information and resolve queries and disputes over the use of AI in public services and contribute to the democratization of universal access to knowledge and innovation. The city will therefore introduce spaces for reflection and debate on the impact of AI on public services.

Barcelona has a Digital Rights Charter and will continue to work on this in the near future. The aim behind the Digital Rights Charter is to recognise the challenges raised from adapting current rights in the virtual environment, and to propose a reference framework that will help to safeguard them in this context.

A map of the local players of the AI ecosystem and the scientific/knowledge infrastructures with potential for AI will be generated, and collaboration between the different elements of the ecosystem will be stimulated. Also applied research and technological-innovation projects in the public sector will be boosted.

  • Internal municipal management

The Barcelona City Counsel developed seven governing principles which have to be followed for every implementation of a technological application. This process must ensure correct risk management, respect for digital rights and public responsibility. The seven principles are human action and supervision; technical robustness and security; data privacy and governance; transparency and information; diversity, inclusion and fairness; social and environmental commitment and responsibility, accountability and democratic control.

In the same context, the city council will also draft a set of instructions which will establish the applicable protocol for the AI-based systems’ design and building, the principles that need to be observed, rights and duties, risk controls and management, approvals procedure, register obligation etc. A technical guide will be created detailing and exemplifying all the processes and aspects that must be taken into account. This guide is aimed at both the executive team and staff responsible for contracts and services. In addition, the city council will include clauses relating to digital rights in the tendering of AI-based solutions

Barcelona is also working on a municipal AI Algorithms register, following Amsterdam and Helsinki. This register will be accessible to citizens and will provide transparency and explainability. Read more about the first evaluation of the algorithm registers (in Amsterdam) in the fifth chapter of this report.

An inventory of administrative processes in which AI can be beneficial, both internal and citizen services, will be created. Once this task is completed, the inventory will be used for designing Barcelona City Council’s digital transformation plan, which includes promoting digital-rights-based AI. The city council will therefore move from a dossier-centred approach to a data-focussed governance model in the city’s administration. The administration will work within a framework of its digital-transition and e-Government plan.

The city council will setup several governance tools for implementing the AI strategy:

  • A cross-cutting commission for promoting ethical AI in Barcelona City Council, which integrates every managerial/executive body in the City Council’s areas. The commission will validate AI-based systems, resolve disputes that may arise from the application of AI in public services and ensure that citizens are involved in the process for designing and implementing AI-services
  • An advisory council of experts in AI and technological humanism will be set up, which will welcome the city’s main experts in the field
  • A citizen-participation body in the form of a city agreement for promoting technological humanism, to align the innovation ecosystem with technological humanism values and ethical AI and to seek out new challenges and opportunities.
  • The city council will develop a plan that aims to promote skill acquisition of municipal workers so that they become active subjects capable of contributing to the public-service co-creation processes where such technologies can have a disruptive effect.

  • Provision of public services

Barcelona is going to produce an exhaustive catalogue of the smart systems it already has in place. This catalogue will be used to diagnose the state of advancement of human rights-based AI technology.

  • Designing and building AI-based systems

Collective innovation processes will be launched with citizens, researchers, businesses and entrepreneurs as well as professional organisations and various social players for the co-creation of AI-based services that meet contemporary social and urban challenges.

  • Public procurement of systems/solutions based on AI technologies

Public tenders for AI-based systems or solutions will have to guarantee that, besides complying with regulations relating to public procurement, they also meet the ethical values expressed in this strategy, as well as the rules/regulations/instructions that arise from them