Barcelone en Comu : results before next step, the example of the Digital policy

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In the last elections in May, Barcelona en Comù has formed an alliance with the Catalan Socialist Party to form a new municipal government with a common agenda and Ada Colau was re-elected for another 4-year term. The first term of office 2015-2019 was held with a minority government and in a regional and national context that was politically and ideologically unfavourable to the development of a “new municipalism of the commons” and an “alternative way of doing politics” that Barcelona claimed to be “en Comù”.

The time has come to take stock and, of course, many will have something to say about the achievements made by comparing them to the initial programme. But when we see on the one hand the concrete achievements that often go beyond or question the competences of a municipality (housing, mobility, civic income, health, immigration, tourism, feminisation of politics, energy and technological sovereignty, etc) and on the other hand, what has been done to put transparency in the relationship between the institution, the social movements and the neighbourhood assemblies and the research, for a co-production of policies, we can affirm that the results are generally positive.

The commons movement members and the supporters of a new municipalism, can be pleased that, thanks to a coalition of social movements, that has had the courage (and it is necessary) to invest an institution impregnated with neo-liberal practices and a logic of political parties fights, that is often far from the needs and realities of residents, Barcelona remains one of the most dynamic laboratories of urban commons and a model to which to refer.

The review of the digital plan implemented during the first mandate proposed here is characteristic of the achievements, critical path and creativity of this laboratory.

Here is how the city summarizes the principles of its action:

Establish itself as a global reference point as a city of commons and collaborative production
End privatisation and transfer of public assets in private hands, while promoting remunicipalisation of critical urban infrastructures
Massively reduce the cost of basic services like housing, transport, education and health, in order to assist those in the most precarious strata of the population
Institute a citizens basic income focused on targeting proverty and social exclusion Barcelona Digital City Plan (2015-2019)
Build data-driven models of the economy, with real inputs (using real time data analytics) so that participatory democracy could model complex decisions
Prefer and promote collaborative organisations over both the centralised state and the market solutions (start investing higher percentages of public budget in innovative SMEs and the cooperative sector)
Build city data commons: decree that the networked data of the population generated in the context of using public services cannot be owned by services operators

These principles are embodied in an action programme, the effects of which are detailed in this document. In addition to the emblematic 13,000 policy proposals from the inhabitants, of which 9.245 (72%) have been accepted, there have been 126 cases of corruption reported through the Transparency mailbox since 2017 or the inclusion of gender differences in the STEAM education and technological training programme.

Finally, Barcelona, here as in other areas, is building on and strengthening city networks. It initiated – with New York and Amsterdam – the Coalition of Cities for Digital Rights and launched the campaign “100 Cities in 100 Days” to defend 5 principles of digital policy:

  • Equal and universal access to Internet and computer literacy Barcelona Digital City Plan (2015-2019)
  • Privacy, data protection and security
  • Transparency, accountability and non-discrimination in data, content and algorithms
  • Participatory democracy, diversity, and inclusion
  • Open and ethical digital service standards

The cities of the Coalition are developing common roadmaps, laws, tools, actions and resources to protect the digital rights of residents and visitors.

Alain Ambrosi and Frédéric Sultan

For a more exhaustive assessment see the sector-by-sector assessment on the Barcelona Joint Site (in Spanish)