Technological Solutions to Help Prevent Human Rights Abuses

Published Jan-22-13

Open innovation challenge seeks concepts to help those working to uphold human rights in the face of unlawful detention.

Amnesty International, United Kingdom

The Story:

Technological Solutions to Help Prevent Human Rights Abuses The threats posed by international terrorism have led to countries all over the world beefing up their security to protect their citizens. In some places this has come at the cost of basic human rights where individuals are detained for long periods of time without trial, access to legal representation or even knowledge of the accusations leveled against them.

In addition, they are denied access to their families and doctors. Isolated from the outside world they may be subject to forms of torture and their relatives left in the dark, not knowing if their loved ones are dead or alive.

In 2011, the global online community OpenIDEO partnered with Amnesty International to challenge the crowd to find ways to use technology to help people detained without trial. Participants to this open innovation initiative were asked to design digital tools that would decrease the risk of such forms of imprisonment and increase the number of detainees who could receive fair trials.

The submission period lasted a little over two months and 165 concepts were proposed.

To help guide concept development, the teams were given a list of evaluation criteria:

• Technological viability - can the concept be developed using existing
technological tools and at a relatively low cost?

• Scalability – is the concept practically applicable across multiple regions
without extensive adaptation?

• Maintenance and continuation – can the concept be sustained over a long
period of time?

• Usability – can the concept be used by a diverse range of people, including
those with limited literacy and technological skills?

• Awareness raising and information sharing – does the concept draw widespread
attention to the issues and educate people about unlawful detention?

During the evaluation stage concepts were rated by the community of entrants. Sixteen of those concepts were shortlisted for further refinement and during this phase the Amnesty Challenge Expert Panel provided detailed feedback.

Additionally, the wider OpenIDEO community was encouraged to help the teams refine their concepts.

Winning Concepts

Overall, nine winning concepts were chosen by the challenge’s panel of experts. These included:

Local Advice Wiki – an Amnesty Guide: as advice and information is going to be different in each country this proposal suggested the creation of a website with a wiki system that provides specific advice and information for that locale for families and friends.

Something's Wrong Alert Plan - PACT (Prepare, Act, Coordinate and Communicate, Talk about it) – a concept that enables those who think they are going to be targeted to prepare a plan and then set their phones or a non-tech device, so that just before they are taken they can click once to alert friends and family. The concept would be supported by workshops for people in high risk areas that would explain what to do if their loved ones are abducted.

Take Action on Google – a concept to raise awareness of the plight of those who have been unlawfully detained and to provide opportunities for action. Both could be achieved by using Google Map open source API technology to create an interactive platform that would bring victims, supporters and members of the public together in an online visual environment.

Ongoing Discussions

Online conversations continued after the challenge was concluded and some of the ideas may be adopted by Amnesty in their future plans, programs, and initiatives.

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