Amsterdam Light Festival
Alphons Nieuwenhuis ©

Cities for digital rights

How do we protect civil rights in fast digitising cities?

The internet has become indispensable in our daily lives. It is where we meet, learn and shop. It is also an essential tool for achieving equality, justice and fairness. But who is behind the buttons? Where are digital rights under pressure and how do we safeguard civil rights?

During the Cities for digital rights conference we talk about the dilemmas and we look for solutions together with citizens and policy makers.

Digital rights are an ongoing global challenge, with the cities in the front line. In cities we are confronted with the impact of large technology companies. Here it is often the first to feel what people need and what it is all about.

Limited number of seat available. After ticket purchase, a reservation has to be made.

Citizens' rights under pressure

Citizens' rights are threatened in public places, at home and at work when technologies with limited legal or technical protection are used. Newspaper headlines are about digital abuse, the misuse of information: freedom of expression is censored; personal information, including our movements and communication, is stored without consent; social media is increasingly being intimidated and incited to hatred. This can undermine democratic processes and the public opinion.

Cities often serve as laboratories of new technologies for new products from startups and large technology companies. Technology makes life easier for residents, but the rights of citizens are under pressure: data is collected everywhere and the decisions made by algorithms are not transparent.


This conference is in Dutch, with the exception of the international speakers in the morning section of the programme.


The Cities for digital rights conference consists of a morning programme with keynotes from national and international speakers, including Bianca Wylie, digital rights activist in Toronto and CTOs from cities such as London and Helsinki. Touria Meliani, Digital City Amsterdam alderman, opens the conference and gives an overview of the Digital City Agenda that was recently published.

Confirmed speakers are:

  • Touria Meliani (Digital City Councilor, Municipality of Amsterdam)
  • Bianca Wylie (digital civil rights activist at Digital Rights Now)
  • Marleen Stikker (co-founder and director of Waag)
  • Ger Baron (Chief Technology Officer Municipality of Amsterdam)
  • Mikko Rusama (Chief Digital Officer Helsinki)
  • Theo Blackwell (Chief Digital Officer London)

The afternoon programme consists of an 'open space'; with workshops, artistic interventions and debates in which the question of "how do we protect civil rights in rapidly digitising cities?" In the program we explicitly bring different groups together; from citizens, civil rights activists, artists to (international) policymakers.

This program is being developed by the City of Amsterdam, Waag, Humanistisch Verbond Amsterdam-Amstelland and WeMakeThe.City.

Many partners are involved in the development of the programme, including Tada!, DECODE, AMS, SIDN, VNG, Network Democracy and BUEC.

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