#ICT4HR: Information and Communication Technologies for Human Rights
M. Land, P. Meier, M. Belinsky and E. Jacobi, #ICT4HR: Information and Communication Technologies for Human Rights, World Bank Institute, Nordic Trust Fund, Open Development Technology Alliance, and ICT4Gov, November 2012
28 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2012
Date Written: November 20, 2012
New technologies have been heralded as revolutionizing activism and government, providing a means for citizens to engage with others and with their government faster and more simply than ever before. The purpose of this report is to analyze the impact of new technologies on human rights. Using case studies largely from three countries, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Dominican Republic, the report considers both the opportunities and risks presented by new technologies for human rights.
The report concludes there are benefits that can be realized through the deployment of new technologies in human rights projects. New technologies offer the potential to reduce the cost of collecting information about human rights issues and to increase participation in human rights advocacy efforts. Each of these possible benefits, however, gives rise to new risks and challenges. Although new technologies can reduce the cost of information gathering, it can be difficult to ensure the accuracy of the information generated. The involvement of ordinary individuals in collecting information also presents particular challenges for security, because these individuals may lack the necessary training or professional protocols for assessing and taking measures to ensure security. Managing these risks is complicated by a tension between the approaches of human rights and technology experts. For example, the values of the technology field — a willingness to experiment and “to fail, adopt, and iterate” — can be in some tension with the need to develop considered and reasoned security protocols ahead of time. In other words, while hacking is an iterative process, security is not.
The report concludes by presenting several recommendations designed to respond at least in part to the human rights risks identified in the report. The report does not purport to provide a blueprint for all projects seeking to employ new technologies in furtherance of human rights or development goals. The challenges that arise in any particular project will be context specific and beyond the scope of this report. Rather, the report seeks to identify, in a preliminary manner, some of the questions that might be asked at the outset in order to respond to concerns about accuracy, security, and participation.
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