“We must articulate an alternative to platform capitalism. It is a matter of democracy.”
Francesca Bria is the principal political representative of the Barcelona City Council on technology, city, and digital innovation policy. Barcelona en Comú (Barcelona in Common), a currently presiding member of the informal “rebel cities” alliance, has charged Bria with developing alternatives to the extractive, privatizing agenda of for-profit platforms.
Bria believes that multinational platforms like Uber and AirBnB, which do not pay taxes to the city and frequently ignore local regulations, must be seen as a “threat model” to be combatted in an effort to return vital infrastructures to citizen control.
The Barcelona city government is thus attempting to re-municipalize transportation, housing, and energy sectors so that these infrastructures benefit the people who rely on them, rather than overseas corporate investors.
The Barcelona City Council started a program dedicated to developing platform cooperatives in 2015 which provides matching funding to support cooperative entrepreneurship. Another initiative aims to provide fifty percent of all funding for privately controlled infrastructures to be used in the development of publicly or cooperatively controlled businesses.
Bria has also been instrumental in returning democratic participation to citizens in Barcelona, serving as the EU Coordinator of the D-CENT project which seeks to provide technological sovereignty for cities with a distributed, common data infrastructure.
Ultimately, Bria sees the broad mobilization of the citizenry that brought her party into power as a demonstration of the need for increased public engagement in politics. Both top-down models of state and corporate control must be rejected for the bottom-up “third sector” of an informed and active public
You can find Francesca Bria’s lecture at the Platform Cooperativism 2016 conference here.