Conference in April 2011 at the University of California at Berkeley’s information school on technology and human rights. The mix of people involved the event is a microcosm of the intellectual areas and interests coming together to create communities of practice around ICT for humanity: information sciences, communication, law, human rights, humanitarian, and international development.
“Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 8:00 am – Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 4:00 pm, David Brower Center, Berkeley
Information technologies are gaining a significant role in advancing human rights research and advocacy. But technology alone will not make the difference; what will is the combination of human rights defenders with the tools specifically designed to support their work.
In May 2009 UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center hosted “Soul of the New Machine”, an international conference focused on exploring the intersection of human rights, technology, and new media. Over 250 leading thinkers, civil society members, activists, programmers, and entrepreneurs had the chance to assess the ‘lay of the land’ and discuss emerging technologies related to evidence gathering / documentation and advocacy and outreach. The conference was designed to be a meeting point between the tech-savvy world and the human rights community.
Two years later, much progress in the practice and implementation of human rights and technology projects call for a new opportunity to share experiences, best practices, and lessons learned from deploying technology in the field. Building on the success of the 2009 conference, Advancing the New Machine: Human Rights and Technology will convene human rights practitioners and technologists to discuss the progress, successes, and challenges that have emerged.
Sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation; Humanity United; the Stanford Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law; the UC Berkeley School of Information; The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative; the Payson Center for International Development; the Berkeley Center for New Media; Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Human Rights Science; and the UC Berkeley School of Law.”
Communication technology serves as a rare bright spot in Haitian recovery, CCLP research trip finds
The Republic of Haiti continues to struggle in its recovery efforts following the devastating January 2010 earthquake, but information and communication technologies are among the few infrastructure bright spots in the country, based on the observations from a recent fact-finding trip, in which the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) participated.
CCLP Research Director Mark Latonero, who was selected for the week-long research project because of his work in communication technology and emergency management, found that cell phones and text messages were critical tools for sharing information about recovery efforts in the earthquake ravaged country.
“Port-au-Prince still lacks basic infrastructure like running water, electricity, or permanent housing,” explained Latonero. “But, mobile phones are up and running.”
It may seem counter-intuitive or technically challenging, but Haiti, a country which derives its electrical power mostly from a limited supply of generators, has a network of cell phone users. Solar powered recharging stations and pay-as-you-go mobile phone plans allow Haitians to make phone calls and send text messages with relative ease.
“Digicel, the largest company in Haiti, is contributing needed resources not only for the country’s mobile services, but for physical reconstruction of schools and the central market,” wrote Latonero in a preliminary report of his trip findings. “Local communities, NGOs, and international relief agencies in Port au Prince are using mobile phones to alert the dispersed population about public health emergencies and protect against human trafficking and sexual gender based violence.”
The four-person research trip organized by the New York Institute of Technology was designed to study firsthand the participatory rebuilding initiatives in Haiti that utilize innovative information and communication technologies. The team met the CEO of Digicel Haiti and representatives from numerous relief organizations, including the International Organization for Migration, Architects for Humanity, and Digital Democracy, who use mobile phones to monitor gender based violence in camps and shelters in Port-au-Prince.
(left to right) Tobias Holler, Maaren Boute (CEO Digicel Haiti), Cynthia Barton, Nader Vossoughian, and Mark Latonero
In addition to mobile communication, the International Organization for Migration runs the United Nations relief camps and provides the displaces persons with a newspaper service, interactive kiosks, and and dramatic, educational radio programming to spread public health and safety information.
“Our team will reflect on our experiences and look into ways to help,” Latonero explained. “One need is to provide Haitian builders with information on seismic housing construction.”
Latonero’s case study of mobile phone usage in post-earthquake Haiti is only the latest in the Center’s ongoing research into technology and social change. In August, Latonero led a research project in the Mekong Sub Region on the broader use of information technology in combating human trafficking.
(From the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership blog http://communicationleadership.usc.edu/blog/communication_technology_rare_bright_spot_in_haitian_recovery_cclp_research_trip_finds.html)
Random Hacks of Kindness is holding a their third “hackathon” on Dec 4th and 5th, 2010. Hackathons are “a global gathering of hackers in many locations around the world, coming together in real time for a marathon weekend of coding around problems relating to natural disaster risk and response.”
“Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) is all about using technology to make the world a better place by building a community of innovation. RHoK brings software engineers together with disaster relief experts to identify critical global challenges, and develop software to respond to them. A RHoK Hackathon event brings together the best and the brightest hackers from around the world, who volunteer their time to solve real-world problems.”
RHoK was developed by a team from the funded by Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, NASA and The World Bank.
From their website:
“MobileActive.org’s vision is to help organizations make use of the most ubiquitous communications technology in the world with data, tools, and how-to resources; build a network of practitioners and technologists in a supportive community of practice; and highlight and explore the many innovative campaigns and projects — their lessons learned.
The global MobileActive community aggregates and builds upon the lessons learned from the pioneers in this field for the benefit of civil society organizations.
- Expand access to knowledge, ideas and experiences about the use of mobile technology to make the world a better place;
- Reduce learning costs for deploying mobile technology for civil society organizations;
- Accelerate the use of effective strategies and tactics of mobile use for NGOs;
- Provide a comprehensive platform for building partnerships, and for facilitating access to technology, know-how, and funding.”
“Sustainable, Affordable Support to Stressed Populations
TIDES is a research project dedicated to open-source knowledge sharing to promote sustainable support to populations under severe stress—post-war, post-disaster, or impoverished, in foreign or domestic contexts, for short-term or long-term (multi-year) operations. The project provides reach-back “knowledge on demand” to decision-makers and those working in the field. It helps catalyze public-private, whole-of-government, and trans-national approaches to encourage unity of action among diverse organizations where there is no unity of command. TIDES maintains this website, where anyone in the project’s network (called STAR-TIDES) can publish their work for feedback and critique.”
“This research project is coordinated at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy (CTNSP) at the National Defense University (NDU), which is part of the Department of Defense.”
From mobile active’s Melissa Ulbricht:
“Since the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January, thousands of internally displaced persons are living in camps, where it is often not easy to report incidences of violence. An ongoing project from Survivors Connect uses mobile phones to support camp managers and community leaders to protect women and encourage people to report incidences. The project, called Ayiti SMS SOS — Ayiti comes from the Creole word for Haiti — allows individuals to submit reports via SMS.
Survivors Connect is an organization that works to enhance anti-trafficking movements around the world through the use of new media and connective technology. Survivors Connect partners with grassroots organizations to incorporate new technology to help improve on-the-ground efforts toward protection, prosecution, and prevention.”
Fascinating conference put on by Oxfam Australia on integrated early warning systems and technologies to anticipate mass atrocities and human catastrophes. Lots of overlap here with, for example, the work InSTEDD is doing with early infectious disease detection.
I noticed two speakers, who will be familiar to those in the ICT for human rights & humanitarian action field: Patrick Meier, of Crisis Mappers and Ushahidi and Amb. Daniel Stauffacher of ICT4Peace Foundation.
I am attracted to conferences such as these with an action orientated agenda – Oxfam AUS’s 2009 conference on the subject produced this outcome document.
“The program brings together both technology and early-warning specialists, and members of the international development and humanitarian communities concerned with the protection of vulnerable populations and the prevention of mass atrocity crimes. These will include specialists from the UN and regional organisations, non-government organisations, scholars, government representatives and affected communities. Read more about our conference speakers. The conference falls within the context of the international community’s Responsibility to Protect, which is the new international norm developed to protect vulnerable populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.”
Crystal Ballroom, Phnom Penh Hotel, 53 Monivong Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 3-4 November, 2010
This conference takes place Oct 14-15, 2010, in Yorba Linda, Orange County, California. Interesting mix of speaker – mostly faith based anti-trafficking groups, law enforcement, and NGOs. And Jack Dorsey, founder/creator of Twitter will also speak on “Organizing 2.0: Putting a face on social media: Can social media be a tool for change, or is it simply used for connecting with constituents and raising funds? Social innovators will discuss how today’s movement can embrace new media and become more effective.”
Of course, there are many other dimensions of social media with regard to human trafficking…not least of which is facilitating the business.
Amnesty continues its Human Rights monitoring using Satellite technology as they observe the Kyrgyzstan crisis…from space. Satellite images document about 1,650 shells of burnt houses and (hauntingly) identified over a hundred SOS signs painted on city streets (click on image to below for a closer look). Quoted from the report:
“Satellite images released and analyzed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Amnesty International’s Science for Human Rights Program show the dramatic impact of the recent violent events on the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan. The new findings were released shortly after a top U.N. official warned the Security Council that ethnic tensions in Kyrgyzstan continue, along with fears that there could be another wave of violence in the strategic Central Asian state.
To document the violence and help clarify the extent of the devastation, we conducted a damage assessment – based on satellite images – of the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan and surrounding neighborhoods. The analysis serves to corroborate the reports of widespread arson and to quantify the scale of destruction. The images confirm that while most of the city remains largely intact, where present, the damage is severe. Large swaths of buildings in the city appear to have been destroyed, a pattern which is repeated in the northern and eastern suburbs. Additionally, on numerous occasions the letters “SOS” appear on roadways and athletic fields throughout the city. In fact, the total count of “SOS” messages within this study area is 116.” Read the announcement here: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/asia/satellite-images-reveal-massive-destruction-in-kyrgyzstan/
InSTEDD integrates social and technological processes and applications for humanitarian relief, crisis, disaster response, and disease detection. “InSTEDD’s mission is to harness the power of technology to improve collaboration for global health and humanitarian action.” After listening to InSTEDD chief engineer Eduardo Jezierski‘s keynote at The Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM) conference in May 2010, I later met Luke Beckman who runs the response operations in Washington D.C.
These experts are part of an innovative team developing open source solutions to respond to complex humanitarian issues. InSTEDD runs their iLab in Cambodia that both develops technologies and educates users in the Mekong Delta and South East Asian region. There could be a preparedness strategy here - educate communities on technological practices and usage before a crisis such that afterwards the response processes are already in place. See an overview of InSTEDD’s tools and technologies.