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This project aims to understand the effects of the digitalisation of illicit urban economies, and to mitigate certain risks associated with these processes.

The everyday activities associated with illicit urban economies, and illicit drug markets in particular, have long had a strong territorial basis, with supply and consumption concentrated in specific, often marginalized areas. As illicit transactions become digitalised – with buyers purchasing drugs via phone apps rather than from street dealers – drug sales increasingly resemble other forms of ultrafast delivery services, with profound consequences for the risks associated with these transactions.

This project seeks to identify mechanisms through which the digitalisation of drug transactions exacerbates or mitigates risk for different populations, including addiction and exposure to criminal or state violence. It does so through a comparative approach, studying these mechanisms in Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro, cities with established local drug markets but contrasting approaches in terms of drug policies and policing.

In close collaboration with harm reduction NGO Jellinek, the project will experiment with interventions aimed at “responsible use” by drug consumers, developing a digital literacy campaign aimed at sensitising users to the risks of app-based purchases.

Project team:

  • Prof. dr. Rivke Jaffe (FMG)
  • Prof. dr. Thomas Poell (FGW)
  • Prof. dr. Bruno Cardoso (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)
  • Dr. Wouter van Gent (FMG)
  • Dr. Laura Dupin (FEB)
  • Dr. Carolina M. Frossard (FMG)
  • Jelke Bosma MSc (FGw)