Francesca Bria

Period of the Fellowship

June 2024 - May 2025

Project title

Governing Digitization in Public Interest

Project description

Francesca Bria’s fellowship will focus on developing and promoting a distinctive European model for digital governance that prioritizes public interest and democratic values. This initiative seeks to carve out a path distinct from both the monopolistic tendencies of U.S. tech giants (Big Tech) and the authoritarian digital practices of China (Big State).

As an alternative, Europe should emphasize instead the need for a new model and a new social pact that not only addresses the immediate challenges of AI but also anticipates its long-term implications for employment, labor rights, creativity, education, and societal norms (Big Democracy).

Her project will explore the productive possibilities of AI, particularly in healthcare, education, and energy transition, through the creation of a “Europe Stack” to boost research and development, public digital infrastructures, digital commons, and data trust in public interest.

During her fellowship she will draw on her experience working in cities globally and emphasize the role of cities like Barcelona and Hamburg as pioneers in this approach, showcasing how urban areas can leverage digital technology for environmental and social sustainability. Bria’s research will particularly highlight the need for digital platforms and infrastructures to be managed as public goods—transparent, democratically accountable, and designed to serve community interests rather than commercial interests. The project aims to demonstrate how European cities can lead the way in using urban data as a common good, ensuring it remains co-owned by citizens and governed in the public interest. Through this work, Bria aims to contribute to shaping Europe’s digital future and leadership in a way that aligns with the United Nations’ goals for sustainable digital public goods.

Short biography

Francesca Bria is an innovation economist and digital policy expert. She is in the Executive Board Member of the Italian public media company RAI, Honorary Professor in the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at UCL in London and she is part of the High-level Roundtable for the New European Bauhaus set up by the EC President Ursula von der Leyen to accelerate the EU Green Deal. She is the former President of the Italian National Innovation Fund. She served as Chief Digital Technology and Innovation Officer for the City of Barcelona in Spain from 2016-2019. In this role, she was leading the digital city agenda, and she was one of the founders of the United Nations Cities Coalition for Digital Rights. Francesca has been nominated Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. She has been listed in the top 50 Women in Tech by Forbes Magazine.