11/16/18 · Research

Forty-two cities worldwide form an alliance to tackle large digital platforms

During the Sharing Cities Summit 2018, global cities such as Barcelona, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Madrid, Montreal, New York, Paris, São Paulo, Seoul, Singapore, Milan, Stockholm and Vienna signed the Common Declaration of Principles and Commitments for Sharing Cities

They call for the large digital platforms to respect local regulatory frameworks and transparency in data use and to ensure the rights of their workers
Photo: Ajuntament de Barcelona

Photo: Ajuntament de Barcelona

Forty-two global cities from all over the world, such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lisbon, Madrid, Montreal, New York, Paris, São Paulo, Seoul, Singapore, Milan, Stockholm and Vienna, worked together at the Sharing Cities Summit, organized by Barcelona City Council and the UOC. Together they produced the Common Declaration of Principles and Commitments for Sharing Cities to call for the sovereignty of cities and to act as a united front when negotiating with large digital platforms whose business activities have a negative impact, as has already been seen with the cases of Airbnb and Uber. These 42 cities have agreed on 10 principles; 31 have already signed it, while the rest are currently at the internal validation stage.

The Deputy Mayor for Economy and Employment, the Digital City and International Relations, Gerardo Pisarello, highlighted that this alliance “stands for municipal unionism in defence of the collaborative economy”. “The basic aim is to make cities heard and to work together not only to make the most of the innovation opportunities offered by digital platforms and the technological revolution, but also to regulate the large global platforms that have negative impacts on cities”, claimed Pisarello.

Pisarello called for the sovereignty of cities to establish the rules, while waiting for the principles set out in the Declaration to be recognized at a European Union or international level. “The cities that have promoted alliances to combat pollution and climate change, alliances against gentrification and to ensure the right to housing, these 42 cities today concur to defend the opportunities of the truly collaborative economy and also to establish clear rules to prevent the negative impact of some platforms”, stated Pisarello.

The Declaration was signed at Sharing Cities Summit 2018, part of the Smart City Expo World Congress and the third summit to be held, following the ones in New York (2017) and Amsterdam (2016). Through ten points, the Declaration sets out the cities' principles and commitments in dealing with the negative impacts of some of the new digital platforms while recognizing and aiming to take advantage of the opportunities for economic growth and innovation offered by the more responsible models.

The platform economy – organized around “communities” of users who work together on a digital platform – is growing quickly and exponentially and has become one of the main priorities of governments worldwide due to the strong impact it has on the life and economic development of cities. The differentiating criteria between the two existing models of platform are the global impact that they have on the city, their governance model, their data policy and use of open-source technologies, and their social and environmental responsibility.

The result of the work and cooperation between the cities, the Barcelona Declaration is particularly relevant in that it calls for the sovereignty of cities when entering into negotiations with digital platforms. Calls are made to guarantee and respect local rules and the existing legal framework, including tax rules that ensure equality of conditions for everyone.

The 42 cities propose establishing common negotiation frameworks with the large platforms, demanding transparency in the use of data and promoting digital protocols to guarantee compliance with each city's regulatory framework. They also champion the need to share inspection instruments, tools and mechanisms to deal with these models more effectively, working together as a lobby to promote the regulatory changes that are necessary at national or European level.

The Declaration also offers a series of proposals to regulate technology and data use, aimed at ensuring platform users' privacy and rights and fostering cities' access to data so that they can undertake public policies.

As regards the labour model, it champions the need to promote new hiring and remuneration models that are fair and inclusive so as to ensure the rights of workers and prevent labour exploitation.

The Declaration differentiates this model of platform from those that do have positive impacts on cities and that are based on a real collaborative economy. In this case, they are innovation models that offer a great opportunity for creating a more inclusive, participative and diverse urban economy. They agree that this new economy could easily work with the interests of cities to promote quality of life. There are successful models that are socially responsible.

Attending the Sharing Cities Summit were companies used worldwide and based on true peer-to-peer relationships, such as Home Exchange, a house-swapping platform that operates in 150 countries and has over a million exchanges, or the Catalan Wikiloc, with 4 million users worldwide sharing 10 million nature activity trails. There were also free and open-source software companies, such as the online educational platform company Moodle, with a new office in Barcelona and 136 million users worldwide; new platform cooperative initiatives, such as the Catalan Som Mobilitat, for sustainable mobility; and decentralized organizations based on democratic governance and open knowledge, such as Wikipedia (the fifth most-visited website in the world) or Guifi.net (a Catalan internet network shared with 35,000 nodes).

Barcelona is a world benchmark in socially responsible platform economy models. This is borne out by the recent study by the Dimmons research group at the UOC, led by researcher Mayo Fuster and published to coincide with the summit. "Sharing Cities: A worldwide cities overview on platform economy policies with a focus on Barcelona" identifies and analyses 100 platforms in Barcelona with a socially responsible focus and which serve as a positive example of new ways for citizens to interact and organize themselves to generate economic growth.

Accordingly, the Declaration advocates promoting the development of local economic ecosystems based on collaborative models and, especially, of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) that have a positive impact on cities. They champion undertaking public policies that support this new economy through entrepreneurship support programmes, participative tools, financing and other promotional tools.

The Declaration is accompanied by an action plan to implement the principles agreed over the coming year. The plan envisages setting up an office based in Barcelona, through which, over the course of a year, cities will be able to share information, strategies and common negotiation frameworks. It will be located in the new Barcelona Activa (Innoba) facilities devoted to socio-economic innovation, which opened on 28 November.

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