Dublin Digital Rights in Action!

What is the UN Digital Rights Pilot in Dublin?

Earlier last year, Dublin was selected as one of four cities to pilot the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights and UN-Habitat’s Digital Rights Governance Framework. As urban areas increasingly adopt new forms of technology and data-driven decision-making, the Framework is designed to help cities strategically manage the opportunities and risks driven by technology and to ensure that digital rights are at the forefront of these practices. A core goal of Dublin’s participation in the pilot is to ensure that a broad range of individuals are brought into the conversation surrounding privacy and ethics in an ever-changing digital landscape. To facilitate this, Smart Docklands, a joint collaboration between Dublin City Council (DCC) and CONNECT Centre at Trinity College Dublin, developed a foundational educational module on digital rights, ethics and privacy. Three different stakeholders were identified; community members, local authority staff and young people. After co-developing this educational module with experts in the UN-Habitat and Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, workshops catering specifically to each of these stakeholders were delivered throughout March 2023.

Digital Rights and Dublin City Council Staff

On March 21st, we ran our first workshop on digital rights with staff in Dublin City Council. In partnership with the UN-Habitat team, the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights and consultants, the workshop addressed digital rights concerns about new and emerging technologies in cities. As the council embraces more digital services there is an increasing need to ensure that citizens digital rights are protected. We looked at this through a speculative use case of a robot delivery device being deployed in a part of the Dublin city centre. This workshop was also connected with the Irish Public Sector Duty, which promotes human rights in Ireland.

Participants reflected on the inherent need to upskill staff across the council and to build collective capacity in line with the pace of technological change. The importance of inter-departmental participation in future workshops was highlighted as well as a focus on existing technologies currently in use. Participant feedback will also influence the strategic development of additional modules and learning outcomes. The goal for the remainder of 2023 will be to scale this workshop across Dublin City Council’s corporate services unit, operational units and with geographical area offices. This focus will culminate in a series of workshops throughout Public Service Innovation week in October, 2023.

Digital Rights and the Community

On March 21st, we held a Digital Rights Community Workshop at St Andrews Resource Centre in the heart of the Docklands. To develop the module we worked with UN-Habitat experts and researchers from the project “Ethics for the Smart City” at the Technical University of Munich. The workshop focused mostly on privacy, safety, security and protections as some of the most important thematic areas in digital rights for residents. The introduction was a moment for reflection on what digital rights mean to community members and information on the UN-Habitat’s people-centred smart cities approach. Through various activity sheets and discussions participants were able to look into digital rights in our daily lives also while in public spaces and values of personal data, trust in the organisations and trade-offs connected with them. At the end we were able to gather ideas about what the local government can do to protect digital rights. Community members were really interested in the topic and offered unique insights into the city’s challenges and initiatives. It was great to meet and discuss human rights in relation to digital technologies with those living and working in Dublin! We plan to organise more workshops in the future.

Digital Rights and Young People

As part of Dublin’s collaboration with the UN-Habitat, Academy of the Near Future teamed up with UN-Habitat experts to co-develop a digital rights learning module specifically aimed at Transition Year students. This learning module was piloted during the recent ‘Design Your Future City’ Week where 22 TY students participated in a ‘Technology, Ethics & Privacy’ walking debate. During the workshop, students had the opportunity to express their opinions and viewpoints on various topics including the use of AI in the classroom, data privacy on social media platforms, and unconscious bias in technology. The walking debate workshop format was key to facilitating greater discussion between participants. It gave each student the opportunity to share their thoughts either verbally or simply by moving from one side of the room to the other. After a fantastic debate, students crafted zine booklets to reflect on their learnings. Students wrote a message to future generations and reflected on how they would like the government to protect their digital rights.

What’s next for Dublin’s Digital Rights journey?

With the pilot phase of the project coming to a close, Dublin will continue working with the Cities Coalition and UN-Habitat to scale up the educational modules for local authority staff, community members, and young people alike. Over the coming months, efforts will be made to further align the local authority educational module with the Irish Public Sector Duty with the goal of incorporating digital rights into Continuous Professional Development training for DCC staff. Likewise, Smart Docklands and Academy of the Near Future will build on the learnings gathered from the pilot phase to deliver more iterations of the community- and youth-focused workshops. If you would like to learn more about digital rights or organise a workshop with us contact us at info@smartdocklands.ie.