Discussion Paper: Democracy by design

Democracy by design:
Safeguarding democratic values in smart cities

Our world is digitizing and new systems are emerging. Across the globe, public and private parties are building the smart cities and smart infrastructures of tomorrow. They strive to improve the efficiency of systems, reduce costs, improve reliability and offer better services by implementing information technology in our public spaces and infrastructures.

These developments will play an important role in the way we will shape our future lives and society. Information technologies will be delegated decisions that affect our economic, social, personal and physical environment.

Amidst new possibilities, we need continue to ask ourselves ethical questions on the functioning of our infrastructures and cities. For example, when an energy system’s malfunction leads to temporary scarcity, who will enjoy uninterrupted energy supply? And who will have priority on the congested roads when a road accident has happened? Increasingly, information technology systems will decide how we are treated and who gets prioritized. Yet, whose technology makes decisions and based on which principles? And do these choices take into account the interests of all concerned?

We urgently need to start the discussion how our decision makers and citizens can make the right choices, as the pace of the developments is rapidly increasing.