Digital strategy for Berlin – sovereign, sustainable and for the common good

More than thirty organisations and individuals from science and civil society sign the statement of the Digital City Alliance of Berlin. Berlin needs an inclusive digitization policy that focuses on people, nature and the common good. The development process of this strategy must be transparent and enable the active participation of civil society.

Berlin needs a digital strategy that is democratically deliberated from within its inhabitant and society. The digital transformation affects all areas of the city‘s life as well as fundamental democratic values and must therefore be shaped by a broad public. The Berlin Digital Strategy should be oriented towards the common good and be discussed by actors from civil society, academia and across political groups in a transparent process.

Since April 2019, the Senate Administration for Economics, Energy and Enterprises (SenWEB) has been working on the development of the Berlin Digital Strategy. According to the Senate resolution from the 21st of September 2018, a „strategy document describing the digital policy goals and concrete individual measures“ of the Berlin administration should be available by mid-2020. By signing the Declaration of Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, the Senate has already committed itself to making the protection of privacy, freedom of expression and democracy the basis of its digital transformation policy. It is essential to develop an intelligent digital policy infrastructure that strengthens fundamental rights of citizens and concomitantly the common good and economy. Too often, norms such as the right to informational self-determination and privacy are diametrically opposed to current digital strategies and business processes. For public welfare-oriented, innovative and social tech projects, interdisciplinary target planning and impact assessment with committed experts is needed. Berlin offers excellent conditions to advance this future debate.

In the description of the strategy process, SenWEB states in its resolution that the strategy should be developed in a broad dialogue with the public and civil society. Using the occasion of the upcoming strategy development, more than 80 people, institutions and initiatives from civil society and science have joined forces under the name of the “Digital City Alliance Berlin” to actively shape and support this process. As an alliance, we welcome the efforts of the Senate and want to contribute to a substantial participation of the civil society institutions, companies, NGOs and organizations oriented towards the common good, scientific institutions as well as the parliament and the public represented in the city.

We are convinced that especially in Berlin, thanks to a multitude of committed and highly qualified actors in the field of digitization, there is a special opportunity and responsibility to rethink and redesign a social and ecological, participatory and democratic city for the 21st century. We therefore urge the involvement of local actors and approaches and demand that people, nature and the common good be placed at the center of strategy development. We demand that this be done on the basis of a broad and open discussion and that it also be institutionalized in the form of a firmly anchored advisory council, as laid down in the Senate resolution.

The Senate has commissioned the private service provider Ernst & Young (EY) to develop and support the Berlin Digital Strategy. Competences and experiences in public deliberation and design of complex policy areas such as the digital transformation must, however, be developed within the governmental institutions themselves. Institutions and members of civil society must be involved across the board in order to include Berlin‘s diverse urban society at an early stage. As part of the cooperation with EY, we therefore demand that the Senate fulfill its duty to inform the public and make the management of the strategy process transparent.

As a basis for discussion, we call not least for the following key points to be included in the so-called „Green Paper“ in order to discuss them within the framework of public participation during the planned „White Paper Process“. We are referring here to the “Declaration of the City Coalition for Digital Rights, which the city of Berlin has signed:

1. Universal and equal access to the internet, and digital literacy: Everyone should have access to affordable and accessible internet and digital services on equal terms, as well as the digital skills to make use of this access and overcome the digital divide.
2. Privacy, data protection and security: Everyone should have privacy and control over their personal information through data protection in both physical and virtual places, to ensure digital confidentiality, security, dignity and anonymity, and sovereignty over their data, including the right to know what happens to their data, who uses it and for what purposes.
3. Transparency, accountability, and non-discrimination of data, content and algorithms: Everyone should have access to understandable and accurate information about the technological, algorithmic and artificial intelligence systems that impact their lives, and the ability to question and change unfair, biased or discriminatory systems.
4. Participatory democracy, diversity and inclusion: Everyone should be represented on the internet, and collectively engage with the city through open, participatory and transparent opportunities to shape the technologies designed for them, including managing our digital infrastructures and data as a common good.
5. Open and ethical digital service standards: Everyone should be able to use the technologies of their choice, and expect the same level of interoperability, inclusion and opportunity in their digital services. Cities should define their own technological infrastructures, services and agenda, through open and ethical digital service standards and data to ensure that they live up to this promise.

In addition to the Declaration, we consider the following points to be further essential for the discussion:

Sustainability: Digitization policy and sustainability must be interlinked from the outset.
Urban development: The interaction between digitization and urban development must be thought of together.

We cordially invite you to join us:

On 11 December at 18:00, we invite you to an information and networking event organized by the Digital City Alliance at

City Lab Berlin, Platz der Luftbrücke 4, 12101 Berlin ein

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