To date, conversations about the digital industry’s impact on human rights have focused on its business practices (i.e. adopting policies consistent with human rights standards and stakeholders expectations) and relationships (i.e. encouraging entities it interacts with to adopt such policies). Across these two, interconnected pillars, the industry has been asked to address salient issues such as privacy and freedom of expression, data and cyber security, labor rights in the supply chain, the misuse of technology by customers and contractors, and the dual-sided nature of technology in which digital technology has the potential to be used for good or ill-intent. A wide number of initiatives and partnerships already exist on these two “pillars” of action.
We believe now is the right time to add to this conversation a third, interconnected pillar: the potential of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to support the efforts of those working to protect human rights. Following a participative consultation process with civil society and interested stakeholders, GeSI is pleased to release this report addressing the application of innovative digital technology to support human rights.
The report suggests that the ICT industry, in collaboration with all interested stakeholders, should take action to develop and apply what could be called “technology for human rights.” This can be defined as the application of new or existing digital solutions used for the express purpose of supporting civil-political, socio-economic, and developmental rights. The report highlights examples of how ICT solutions are being applied constructively to help address and arrest human rights abuses. Yet, the human rights benefits of digital solutions such as blockchain for responsible supply chain practices; GPS and data analytics to protect land rights; or civic tech allowing greater citizen scrutiny of public spending... remains untapped. The ICT industry has the capability to scale up technology solutions supporting a wide range of needs that human rights defenders have. For the ICT industry, the report also defines a clear business case to help develop and apply technology solutions for human rights.
For technology to reach its potential to enable human rights, the ICT industry will need to continue collaborating with a broad range of stakeholders to address key challenges that pose risks to the effective deployment of digital solutions for human rights. To that end, GeSI proposes to create a Technology for Human Rights Innovators’ Network to Use ICT to Enable Human Rights (“Innovators’ Network”). The mission of the Innovators’ Network will be to coordinate the collective capabilities of ICT industry leaders, human rights organisations, policy-makers, academia, and social innovators... to accelerate and scale-up the development and application of technology that enables human rights.