‘The dark side of urban artificial intelligence: addressing the environmental and social impact of algorithms’- international seminar

CIDOB’s Global Cities Programme with the support of the Barcelona City Council organises an international seminar on the dark side of AI with key stakeholders on 19th June 2023 (4:00-6:00 p.m.).

Artificial Intelligence has become one of the biggest hype topics of the year, also in the urban world. And not without good reason: AI is widely perceived as a valuable tool to address the most important challenges of our societies, including dealing with the climate emergency. The potential uses of AI applications are extensive and varied, ranging from enhancing resource usage efficiency, improving transportation and urban planning effectiveness, or providing more personalized urban services. AI is also the driving force behind the green and digital transition promoted by cities worldwide. Yet, while we tend to imagine the digital as something ethereal, limitless, dematerialised and neutral, there are significant social and environmental costs associated with the growing reliance of our societies on AI systems.  

More info soon.

Bonn Sustainable AI Conference 2023

The second Sustainable AI conference – Sustainable AI Across Borders – organized by the Bonn Sustainable AI lab at Bonn University’s Institute for Science and Ethics (IWE) will take place May 30th to June 1st 2023. The focus of the first conference in June 2021 was to create a community of researchers in the space of Sustainable AI and to raise awareness on the topic. The second conference will focus on cross cultural perspectives to address the variety and scope of ethical issues on a global scale. An inspiration for this theme is to acknowledge the reality that certain countries play an integral role in the early production phase and the waste management but may never experience the benefits of AI.

Keynote Speakers

To see full program click here

The Barcelona City Council establishes an external Advisory Council on AI, Ethics and Digital Rights

The city of Barcelona has established an external consultative body made up of 15 independent experts who will advise the City Council on the use of artificial intelligence for the common good.

Besides advising the municipal government on the use of AI, the body’s main task will be to carry out studies and evaluate the impact of high-risk algorithms on citizens’ fundamental rights before implemention, assessing possible undesirable effects and introducing any necessary measures to correct them. Especially in sensitive areas such as education, employment or essential public services. Its mission will be to assure that the push for innovative public policies guarantees citizens’ digital rights at all times.

The council will also promote collaboration with universities, research centers, companies and other entities related to this area. It will also propose projects to make Barcelona a reference city for technological humanism.

The experts that constitute the body work in different research institutions and count on expertise drawn from the academic field, both from scientific and technological disciplines as well as from social sciences and humanities, all with previous experience on ethics and AI. The experts will be part of the body for five years, extendable for a maximum of one more term, and will meet at least twice a year. Working groups will also be set up for topics of interest.

‘Mapping Urban AI’ Webinar series

CIDOB’s Global Cities Programme and Urban AI co-organise the “Mapping Urban AI” webinar series, with the support of the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights and Barcelona City Council, and within the framework of the Global Observatory of Urban AI. The five-episode series aims at highlighting how cities design, use, and implement Urban Artificial Intelligence throughout the globe.  For a period of six weeks, every session will host representatives from global cities who will showcase their specific use cases and policies on how they implement urban AI.


March 7th – Holistic Strategies for Urban AI (16-17h)

From specific projects to holistic strategies, what is the value of having an AI strategy? How can cities create overarching ethical frameworks to promote a rich and coherent development of urban AI? What are the key ingredients of successful AI strategies? How can cities govern AI? This session will feature two pioneer cities with experience on the matter. With Paula Boet (Project Manager at Barcelona City Council) and Alex Foard (Executive Director, Research and Collaboration, NYC Office of Technology and Innovation).

March 14th – AI for Urban Health (16-17h)

Can AI be used by cities to improve urban health? In this session we will explore how the City of Buenos Aires used AI to better combat COVID 19

March 21st – Urban AI: Enabling Safe and Inclusive Cities in Africa (16-17h)

Africa is home to some of the fastest-growing cities in the world, and with this growth comes significant challenges in terms of housing, transportation, and access to essential services. At the same time, rapid advancements in AI technology are offering new possibilities for addressing these challenges and creating more just and equitable urban environments. This event aims to explore the intersection of AI and urban planning in Africa, highlighting innovative strategies and solutions for leveraging AI to promote social equity and create more sustainable, liveable cities. With Sophie Naue (Urban Innovation Specialist at UN Innovation Technology Accelerator for Cities).

March 28th – Urban AI and Sustainable Cities (16-17h)

SDG Goal 11 is about making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. To achieve this global goal, cities are innovating using new technologies such as AI in different ways. This first episode on urban AI for sustainability purposes will feature two researchers from the Barcelona Supercomputing Center – Elli Kartsakli (Established Researcher, Computer Sciences – Predictable Parallel Computing Department) and Jan Mateu (Recognised Researcher, Earth Sciences – Air Quality Services ES group Department) – who will explain how AI can be used to monitor traffic-related air quality to benefit present and future generations. With Elli Kartsakli (Established Researcher, Computer Sciences – Predictable Parallel Computing Department) and Jan Mateu (Recognised Researcher, Earth Sciences – Air Quality Services ES group Department).

April 11th – AI for Low Carbon Cities (16-17h)

As cities around the world strive to reduce their carbon footprint and mitigate the effects of climate change, AI has emerged as a powerful tool for achieving these goals. This event will explore how two municipalities are deploying urban AI to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and become low carbon cities through mobility and energy solutions. With Rautio Pasi (Project Manager at the City of Helsinki) and Laurent Duthoit (CIO at the City of Meudon, Greater Paris).

UN-Habitat launches a global survey to assess AI needs of cities

UN-Habitat has launched a global survey to better understand the needs of local governments in relation to artificial intelligence (AI). The survey aims to identify current capacity and governance gaps, as well as opportunities for standardization, cooperation, and multi-stakeholder governance in cities related to the responsible use of AI. This survey is carried out collaboration with United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV), a policy-oriented think tank dedicated to electronic governance, and with the support of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The survey is expected to generate valuable insights into the needs and capacities of cities to use AI responsibly. The results will help the United Nations and other organizations to understand local government priorities and AI capacity needs in addition to informing the development of technical guidelines on how to use, implement, and govern AI in local government contexts.

Barcelona approves an internal protocol to introduce AI into municipal services with ethical guarantees

The Barcelona City Council approved the “Definition of work methodologies and protocols for implementing algorithmic systems”, which creates an internal protocol for the ethical implementation of algorithmic systems used by the municipality. The protocol, based on the proposed European AI regulation, defines step-by-step mechanisms for each stage of the process, from the public tendering and implementation phase to the dismantling of the AI system. The procedure adapts to the different stages of the AI lifecycle and its level of riskiness (assessed from ‘limited and minimal risk’ to ‘unacceptable risk’ based on the EU Commission’s risk classification). According to this classification, algorithmic systems with unacceptable risk are automatically rejected, while high-risk systems must undergo an algorithmic impact study produced by an external consultant. Furthermore, it also establishes governance and supervision bodies that will ensure that the impact of AI is in line with the ethical principles endorsed by Barcelona’s AI strategy. This is a pioneering document in regard to the regulation and governance of algorithmic systems at the local level, as it combines public procurement, the lifecycle of an algorithmic system, the City Council’s data protection mechanisms and the ethical standards defined by various administrations and organisations of the city.

European cities help develop EU standard contractual clauses for the procurement of ethical AI

Work is underway by cities supported by the EU Commission to develop EU standard contractual clauses for the procurement of ethical AI based on the good practices of the City of Amsterdam. Amsterdam developed a set of contractual clauses for the procurement of Artificial Intelligence, to create a framework for the information that suppliers need to provide on algorithms used in order to ensure citizen trust in these services and so that the city could provide transparent information on how AI is used. The city made its contractual clauses publicly available as a template for other cities and other governments to reuse, as a practical means of encouraging the use of AI while providing safeguards.

These clauses are being reviewed and adapted to ensure they are aligned with the AI Act which is still under negotiation. The work will be supported by a community of practice, DG GROW’s forthcoming Digital Public Buyer’s Community, and the Living-in.EU movement (DG CONNECT).

SCEWC side-event “Ethical Urban AI: Public-Private Collaboration for Trustworthy Cities”

Organized by CIDOB with the support of the Barcelona City Council and the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights (CC4DR), this session premiered the documentary “Trustworthy Cities: Ethics in the AI Era”, followed by a roundtable addressing the challenges and opportunities of public-private collaboration to promote an ethical use and development of artificial intelligence in urban contexts.

First regulatory sandbox on artificial intelligence presented

A pilot of the first regulatory sandbox on Artificial Intelligence (AI) was presented earlier this week by the government of Spain and the European Commission at an event held in Brussels in the presence of Spanish, European authorities as well as renowned experts in the field.

The sandbox aims to bring competent authorities close to companies that develop AI to define best practices that will guide the implementation of the future European Commission’s AI Regulation (Artificial Intelligence Act). This would also ensure that the legistlation can be implemented in two years.

The tests will begin from October 2022 and the results will be published during the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2023. Experience collected in the sandbox will be presented in the form of good practices and implementation guidelines and will be made available to all Member States and the European Commission and may be used in preparation of the implementation of the future AI Regulation.

‘Algorithm democracy or democratise the algorithm?’ – international seminar

Can algorithms help make the urban governance of cities more democratic? What are the limits of algorithmic democracy? How could cities help mitigate the risks to democracy posed by the use of algorithmic tools? What is the role of citizenship? The objective of the session is to analyse, in a humanistic and practical debate, how to rethink the integration of artificial intelligence in the urban environment, and how to do this from a civil society standpoint. 

‘Democracy, Algorithms and Resistance’ Conference

Conference joining together collectives and social movements to generate shared knowledge and action proposals, towards a democratic, decolonial and human rights-based approach for artificial intelligence. Online 26th May | Barcelona 27th May | Madrid 28th May.