“Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights
The AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program, with funding from the Oak Foundation, works to expand the applications of geospatial technologies to human rights issues through its Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project.
Geospatial technologies include a range of modern tools, such as remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that allow for mapping and analysis of multiple layers of georeferenced data.
Analysis of such data can provide critical information on:
- the impact of remote, isolated conflicts on civilians
- a host of human rights violations
- environmental and social justice issues
- indigenous rights
Geospatial technologies can broaden the ability of non-governmental organizations to rapidly gather, analyze, and disseminate authoritative information, especially during times of crisis. They can also provide compelling, visual proof to corroborate on-the-ground reporting of conflicts and natural disasters affecting human rights.
SRHRL partners with human rights organizations to provide technical assistance in using geospatial technologies to strengthen advocacy campaigns, support legal cases, and enhance response coordination and prevention efforts.
False-color imagery of waterways southwest of Bodo, Nigeria on 26 January 2009 display the effects of a major oil spill, with vegetation death concentrated primarily near the river and its tributaries. For more information, see our report.”
In September, 2011 the USC Center on Communication Leadership & Policy released a comprehensive report examining the role of social networking sites and online classified ads in facilitating human trafficking. Find the press release below. The executive summary and full report can be found at: technologyandtrafficking.usc.edu
Internet Is Potent Weapon in Global Fight Against Human Trafficking
New USC report details steps to be taken by industry, government and NGOs
“The time has come to harness the power of technology to go after those using it to enslave others,” California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris
LOS ANGELES, September 20, 2011 –The rapid expansion of the Internet is being used to facilitate human trafficking, yet it also can be harnessed to monitor and combat this form of modern-day slavery. This is the finding of a new report from the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.
The result of a year-long investigation by CCLP research director Mark Latonero, Ph.D., and his team, Human Trafficking Online: The Role of Social Networking Sites and Online Classifieds focuses on how technology and online tools can be used to prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.
“Data mining, mapping and advanced analytics can be developed to support law enforcement and other organizations in fighting human trafficking,” says Latonero. “The report also describes how mobile phone applications, crowdsourcing and other new technologies might be used to help victims.” Many of these innovations were examined with expertise provided by Professor Eduard Hovy and colleagues at the Information Sciences Institute at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering.
While it is difficult to quantify the extent of human trafficking on the Internet, this research establishes that online criminal exploitation of trafficked victims is an undeniable fact.
“We must be united in the fight against human trafficking. The USC Annenberg Report demonstrates that the modern practice of human trafficking has, to a large extent, migrated online,” said California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. “The time has come to harness the power of technology to go after those using it to enslave others.”
Just as the Internet has given traffickers easier means of exploiting their victims to a wider audience of “johns,” online technologies also offer new ways to combat human trafficking, according to the report. For example, online communications from or to traffickers leave behind traces in cyberspace. This information provides important glimpses into criminal behavior, techniques and patterns. And if anti-trafficking investigators can assemble enough of it, they can take specific actions to help victims and prosecute traffickers.
A common starting point for investigators is combing through photos and online advertisements searching for potential victims of sex trafficking, particularly girls who seem younger than their advertised ages, the report reveals.
In addition to documenting cases, Human Trafficking Online proposes ways Internet technologies can help combat human trafficking, according to Latonero.
William H. Dutton, professor of Internet studies and director of the Oxford Internet Institute agrees. “Researchers cannot afford to ignore the dark side of the Internet,” he says. “This report explains how the Internet can be a proactive tool for detecting, locating and addressing human trafficking. It provides valuable guidelines for policymakers and practitioners that are based on multi-disciplinary research extending to a clear legal and technical understanding of how to go after the traffickers.”
Human Trafficking Online calls for immediate action to develop monitoring and prevention techniques and makes recommendations for industry, law enforcement, researchers and NGOs to combat trafficking.
“The technology industry and the anti-trafficking community are beginning to explore new ways that technology can help in the fight against human trafficking,” adds Samantha Doerrof Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit. “This report is a valuable step forward in that effort, and Microsoft is proud to be working with the University of Southern California and others to drive further research, awareness and the development of innovative disruptive actions and technologies to fight human trafficking.”
Human Trafficking Online offers a set of guidelines to inform future technological interventions in support of anti-trafficking efforts. However, the report cautions that adapting these technologies and methods requires careful consideration of potential implications for civil liberties-such as privacy and freedom of expression-and the report addresses these crucial issues.
“The Center is committed to exploring ways to use communication technology to serve the public good,” said Geoffrey Cowan, USC University Professor and CCLP director. “Dr. Latonero and his research team have probed the nexus of technology with this global problem and they have come up with creative and potentially important initiatives. We are looking forward to continuing work with our partners to make a major dent in global trafficking.”
Human Trafficking Online is available at www.humantraffickingonline.org or by email@example.com.
About the Technology & Trafficking Initiative
CCLP’s Technology & Trafficking Initiative began in 2010 with a meeting convened in Washington, D.C. by CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan with Alec Ross, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s senior adviser for Innovation, and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, head of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Anthony Townsend at the Institute for the Future and his research team has produced a fascinating report for the Rockefeller Foundation on the intersection of increasing urbanization and increasing data/information flow from ICTs. “Civic Laboratories: The Future of Cities, Information, and Inclusion” asks the central question of whether the flood of data about urban citizens can be leveraged to provide for more inclusive and transparent ways to benefit all equitably? Or not.
I would encourage readers to pay attention to both the content of the report and also the skillful way in which the concepts are presented and analyzed. The report presents a typology of future cities that includes: technologies of inclusion, drivers of change and the scale of impact, as well as the key tensions and implications. From the report:
“Over the next decade, cities will continue to grow larger at a rapid pace. At the same time, new technologies will unlock massive streams of data about cities and their residents. As these forces collide, they will turn every city into a unique civic laboratory— a place where technology is adapted in novel ways to meet local needs. This ten-year forecast map charts the important intersections between urbanization and digitalization that will shape this global urban experiment, and the key tensions that will arise.
The explosive growth of cities is an economic opportunity with the potential to lift billions out of poverty. Yet the speed of change and lack of proper foresight has led to a swarm of urban problems—poor housing conditions, inadequate education and health care, and racial and
ethnic inequalities. The coming decade holds an opportunity to harness information to improve government services, alleviate poverty and inequality, and empower the poor.
Some key uncertainties are coming into view:
• What economic opportunities will urban information provide to excluded groups?
• What new exclusions might arise from new kinds of data about the city and its citizens?
• How will communities leverage urban information to improve service delivery, transparency, and citizen engagement?
As information technology spreads beyond the desktop into every corner of city dweller’s lives, it will provide a new set of tools for poor and excluded groups to reengineer their relationship with government, the built environment, and each other.
Funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for the Future has identified this challenge—harnessing data for development and inclusion—as a critical cross-sectoral urban issue for the next decade and beyond. Integrating designed solutions from industry and government with the tremendous innovative potential of an engaged citizenry will be a powerful tool to address this challenge.”
See below for a link to a FastCompany article on the report and to download the report.
Worth reading are US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s remarks on Innovation and American Leadership to the Commonwealth Club of California on October, 15 2010. The speech gives examples of the concept of 21st century statecraft, which integrates the tools and social practices of information and communication technologies and new media with US Foreign Policy interests and diplomacy. An extended quote from Secretary Clinton follows:
“One aspect of what we’re doing to promote diplomacy and development that is quite new and has special relevance for the Bay Area in Northern California is our emphasis in innovation and our use of technology. We have been working very hard for the last 20 months to bring into the work we do the advances that many of the companies and the innovators, entrepreneurs here in California have brought to business, have brought to communications in particular.
Innovation is one of America’s greatest values and products and we are very committed to working with scientists and researchers and others to look for new ways to develop hardier crops or lifesaving drugs at affordable costs, working with engineers for new sources of clean energy or clean water to both stem climate change and also to improve the standard of living for people. Social entrepreneurs who marry capitalism and philanthropy are using the power of the free market to drive social and economic progress. And here we see a great advantage that the United States that we’re putting to work in our everyday thinking and outreach around the world.
Let me just give you a couple of examples, because the new communication tools that all of you and I use as a matter of course are helping to connect and empower civil society leaders, democracy activists, and everyday citizens even in closed societies.
Earlier this year, in Syria, young students witnessed shocking physical abuse by their teachers. Now, as you know, in Syria, criticism of public officials is not particularly welcome, especially when the critics are children and young people. And a decade earlier, the students would have just suffered those beatings in silence. But these children had two secret weapons: cell phones and the internet. They recorded videos and posted them on Facebook, even though the site is officially banned in Syria. The public backlash against the teachers was so swift and vocal that the government had to remove them from their positions.
That’s why the United States — (applause) — in the Obama Administration is such a strong advocate for the “freedom to connect.” And earlier this year, last January I have a speech our commitment to internet freedom, which, if you think about it, is the freedom to assemble, the freedom to freely express yourself, the right of all people to connect to the internet and to each other, to access information, to share their views, participate in global debates.
Now, I’m well aware that telecommunications is not any silver bullet, and these technologies can also, as we are learning, be used for repressive purposes. But all over the world we see their promise. And so we’re working to leverage the power and potential in what I call 21st century statecraft.
Part of our approach is to embrace new tools, like using cell phones for mobile banking or to monitor elections. But we’re also reaching to the people behind these tools, the innovators and entrepreneurs themselves.
For instance, we know that many business leaders want to devote some of their companies’ expertise to helping solve problems around the world, but they often don’t know how to do that, what’s the point of entry, which ideas would have the most impact. So to bridge that gap, we are embracing new public-private partnerships that link the on-the-ground experience of our diplomats and development experts with the energy and resources of the business community.
One of my first acts as Secretary was to appoint a Special Representative for Global Partnerships and we have brought delegations of technology leaders to Mexico and Colombia, Iraq and Syria, as well as India and Russia, not just to meet with government officials, but activists, teachers, doctors, and so many more.
This summer, an entrepreneur named Josh Nesbit from Frontline SMS, which designs communications tools for NGOs, joined a State Department delegation to Colombia. And on the trip he learned first-hand about one of the biggest problems in the country’s rural areas: injuries and deaths from unexploded land mines. He was so moved that this month he is going back to work with the government, local telecom companies, and NGOs on a mobile app that will allow Colombians to report the location of land mines so they can be disposed of safely.
Similarly, in Washington, we are bringing together groups of experts from various fields to join us in working on big foreign policy challenges. Last year we held our first TED@State conference. Just last week, Cherie Blair and the cell phone industry around the world, we convened a group to talk about how to advocate for girls and women to get access to cell phones. It’s a new initiative called mWomen, which will work to close the gender gap that has kept mobile phones out of reach for 300 million women in low- and middle-income countries.
At USAID — (applause) — we’re pursuing market-driven solutions that really look to see how to involve the business community and we just unveiled a new venture capital style fund called Development Innovation Ventures, which will invest in creative ideas that we think can lead to game-changing innovations in development. As part of our first round of financing, the fund has already invested in solar lighting in rural Uganda, mobile health services in India and an affordable electric bicycle that doubles as a portable power source.
The door is open to each and every one of you. I just met with a group from Twitter and I know that there area a million ideas that are born every day here. And if you have a good idea, we will listen. Because despite all the progress that we’ve made, we cannot take for granted that the United States will still lead in the innovation race.”
See full text and video here:
Janet Vertesi, Silvia Lindtner, and Irina Shklovski and putting together what should be a fascinating workshop at CHI – the international conference on computer-human interaction. The call for papers follows:
Recent studies in Human-Computer Interaction have turned to examining computing in non-Western contexts, increasingly recognizing that technologies and activities of their participants are not bounded by single geographies, cultures, or borders. In our interactions with everyday technologies, we are increasingly tied to people and machines in other countries, cultures and networks. Such activities require us to consider technologies not just in national, but also in a transnational context. That is, humans, computers and interactions not limited to single countries or cultures, but forming communities across spaces, managing boundary-crossings, and forming hybrid practices.
This workshop will bring together researchers and designers across academia and industry to address the effects, implications, and design opportunities for individuals and communities who engage in transnational technological practices. We seek participants to explore the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in transnational settings for our workshop, TRANSNATIONAL HCI, at CHI 2011. We aim to assemble an interdisciplinary group of practitioners to expand current work on ICTs in global processes, to develop a language and
toolset for the study of technologies in transnational spaces, and to address the role of ICTs for local-global user interaction, collaboration across boundaries and negotiations of power relations.
Examples of possible paper topics include, but are not limited to:
* The use of pervasive technologies such as multiplayer gaming across borders
* Studies of social networking among Diaspora communities
* Use of ICTs in censorship state zones
* The role of ICTs in reconfiguring ?the local?
* Technology in the context of international migration and politics
* Cross-cultural collaboration
Submissions that develop theoretical approaches, report on empirical work or on technology design are welcome, and need not be limited to “developing world” sites. Full papers may later be solicited for a potential special issue. We welcome applications from researchers, designers, practitioners and scholars across the subdomains of human-computer interaction and beyond, in the fields of anthropology, sociology, science and technology studies, critical theory, communication, media studies and cultural geography.
Interested participants should submit a 2-4 page paper in CHI Archival Format <http://chi2011.org/authors/format.html> by January 14, 2011 to firstname.lastname@example.org describing your current project and its contribution to the workshop topic. At least one author for each accepted paper must register for the workshop and should attend at least
one full day of CHI <www.chi2011.org>. Additional information, including the workshop description (Extended Abstract), is available on our website at http://www.princeton.edu/~jvertesi/TransnationalHCI/
* Submission deadline – Jan 14, 2011
* Notification of acceptance – Feb 11, 2011
* Workshop at CHI2011 – May 8, 2011
Janet Vertesi, Princeton University, USA
Silvia Lindtner, University of California, Irvine, USA
Irina Shklovski, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark
If you have any questions please contact the organizers at
The next in the series Tech@State concerns Open Source. It would be interesting to engage with the idea of openness in light of the controversies and contexts wherein transparency and participation seemingly are at odds with US Foreign Policy.
““We recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Remarks on Internet Freedom
Tech@State: Open Source is a conference designed to convene those with an interest in government use of Open Source technologies and those who can envision an “Open Source future” that supports improvements to the world’s information infrastructure. Whether your interest is policy, code, data sharing or communication, you’ll find the right people in attendance to help you get things done. Save the date now, and join us on February 11, 2011.
The Open Source movement has opened a window for rapid development and implementation of technological solutions in the government space, but there are unresolved issues. How do we address procurement, accessibility, and security issues? Do policies written for other forms of technology apply in this space? What standards are in place for developing Open Source projects and documenting them? What can the larger government community learn from organizations that are already using Open Source technologies, and how might they use them better? And, ultimately, what is the role of government in creating a healthy community for open source innovation?
To develop a more thoughtful information infrastructure for our global community, we need to collaborate across governments, communities and networks. Important initiatives like Civil Society 2.0 and Open Government are taking advantage of Open Source technologies to enable innovation, coordinate communities, and engage citizens in the United States and around the world. Organizations and individuals are developing projects that rely on Open Source technologies to rapidly respond to disasters, provide reliable citizen services, and design information resource collectives. Discussing Open Source at Tech@State is a natural means of gathering more collaborators and methods around today’s most pressing multinational issues.”
Tech Gets Enlisted In The War Against Human Trafficking
By SHEILA RILEY, FOR INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY Posted 12/03/2010 04:38 PM ET
The fight against human trafficking is using a few new weapons: texting, iPhone apps and smarter passports.
An estimated 12.3 million adults and children around the world are trafficked — compelled in a variety of ways to work against their will — the U.S. State Department says.
“It’s basically modern-day slavery,” said Mark Latonero, research director for the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center. “It’s a pernicious and widespread global problem.”
The term “trafficking” covers a wide area.
“It’s not just forced prostitution, it’s also forced labor — people working in slaverylike conditions on farms, fishing boats, in nail salons, whatever,” Latonero said.
He’s working on a project to make it easier to get help for trafficking victims via cell phone.
The Technology and Trafficking in Persons Research Initiative will allow concerned citizens, potential trafficking victims and possibly victims themselves to text information to a hotline. The project is led by the Annenberg Center.
Texts will be sorted by a computer and sent to appropriate agencies that could help, Latonero says.
The initiative focuses on the Mekong region in Southeast Asia: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, southern China and Burma.
“This part of the world is a major source, transit and destination region for men, women and children forced into labor and prostitution,” Latonero said.
Cell Phones Aplenty
The program could be in place by mid-2011 in Thailand, with government funding and philanthropic grants expected to cover the $500,000-plus launch costs.
Though residents of the region are extremely poor — which makes them vulnerable to trafficking — most have cell phones, Latonero says.
“That,” he said, “is our opportunity.”
Phones are used on another front in the fight against trafficking. An iPhone application for consumers concerned about whether forced or child labor was used to create their purchase became available last month.
The app, Free2Work, is a joint project of Not For Sale, a San Francisco anti-slavery nonprofit, and the International Labor Rights Forum, a nonprofit advocacy organization for workers. Juniper Networks (JNPR) funded the development of the application, which is free.
With the app, shoppers can access information about the labor practices of some 60 companies, including Nike (NKE), Hasbro (HAS), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Apple (AAPL). It rates the companies’ labor practices. Not For Sale compiles information from company Web sites and public databases to create its corporate ratings.
“It’s when people are shopping that they really need that information,” said Dave Batsone, president of Not For Sale.
(See original Investor’s Business Daily Article here).
An interesting forum on ICT4D in the Boston Review Nov/Dec 2010
Kentaro Toyama writes in the lead article:
“If I were to summarize everything I learned through research in ICT4D, it would be this: technology—no matter how well designed—is only a magnifier of human intent and capacity. It is not a substitute. If you have a foundation of competent, well-intentioned people, then the appropriate technology can amplify their capacity and lead to amazing achievements. But, in circumstances with negative human intent, as in the case of corrupt government bureaucrats, or minimal capacity, as in the case of people who have been denied a basic
education, no amount of technology will turn things around.”
Nick Negroponte writes a rebuttal:
“When I started One Laptop per Child (OLPC) in 2004, I said that owning a connected laptop would help eliminate poverty through education, especially for the 70 million children who have no access whatsoever to schools. I still believe this. But what I have learned since—with two million laptops in 40 countries—is that reducing isolation is an even bigger issue, and that goal will be achieved with technology and only with technology.”
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.”