How can IT help to protect Human RIghts?

Going forward?

Social and political systems are getting more complex day by day as well as our lives. Looking back at the history of the humanity, we can state that we have never lived better, wealthier and easier than now. However, there are still many problems left unsolved. One of the most important of them is human rights issue, as if the basic rights of people won’t be respected, all the progress we have already made can be turned against us. Look through the figures below. Scary, isn’t it?


In this article I’m going to present you three cases of how technologies are used for protecting human rights (and even saving lives).

Case 1. The button that can save your life

Unfortunately, human rights are still being violated regularly in most of the countries. Ironically, at most risk are those who are trying to prevent or stop these violations, human rights defenders.


Take GPS technology, smartphone and 3 trusted person and you will get the app “Panic button”, developed by Amnesty International in cooperation with other organizations. It is described in Google Play as an app that allows “to give human rights defenders urgent help from their own networks when facing attack, kidnapping, or torture”.

Functionality of the app is quite simple: you press the button and the app sends information about your current position to your three trusted colleagues.

Case 2. Can an app and a site fight women harassment in Arab countries?

The women’s rights in Arab countries are quite limited. One of the “leading” countries is Egypt with rated as “very high” being on 130 place of 187 countries according to United Nations Gender Inequality index. In Egypt, women harassment took place often and were not considered as a criminal activity.

In 2010 a group of volunteers launched an organization and application called HarassMap with the main aim to engage the whole Egyptian society into creation of the environment that did not tolerate sexual harassment.

They used integrated approach including mass media and communication campaigns and community mobilization, but the main pillar of their activities was a platform that allowed to report and map acts of sexual harassment. The map basically looked like that.


The platform allowed both witnesses and victims to report. What is also important, free services were available for those who had been harassed.  For the span of 5 years they received around 1500 reports, some of women who had been attacked came forward to tell their stories, activists were recruited in more than 28 countries. The platform and people behind it initiated the change in the society

I would like to advise you to watch a TED talk of one of the founders of HarassMap, Rebecca Chiao. Very inspirational and exciting.

Case 3. How to defend yourself from police?

Human rights are being violated not only in Africa or CIS, but in more developed countries too. Your rights could be violated even by those who is meant to protect yous, by police officers. Just type into google something like “Violation of rights by police” and you will see thousands of entries.

The American Civil Liberties Union of California (ACLU) recently released an app that allows to send images and video of questionable police behavior directly to the union. So, even if the phone is destroyed, the footage will be secured. As soon as the is uploaded, specialists of ACLU can screen it and determine whether you rights have been violated.

The video shows how simple it is in use.

Is this all?

Right now, the range of human rights apps are mostly limited with reporting and locating inappropriate behavior functions. Though not so advanced from technical perspective, these apps successfully help to solve real problems.

P.S.: If you know other interesting ways how technology helps to protect and sustain human rights, please share them in the comments.



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