How can technology help us solve human rights challenges?
Organizations like Amnesty International have a simple mission: everyone in the world to enjoy their human rights. Nonetheless, their achievement is difficult and for the freedoms many have today, there’s been decades of work for their implementation, monitoring and protection.
Today, some of the human rights challenges faced by humanity are:
-The more than 20 million refugees that have lost their homes and fled their countries because of persecution and conflict. Millions of refugee children have little or no education.
-Gender inequality and discrimination of women and girls. Harassment and violence have crossed over to the digital world and restricts them from freely expressing their opinions.
-Threats to freedom of expression, with journalists being harassed and imprisoned for speaking out against corruption, abuses of power and violence.
-Humanitarian assistance being blocked in areas of conflict like Syria or Sudan.
Yet there’s still much work to be done and the methods to protect human rights need to keep pace with the times and for example benefit from the advantages technology can offer.
This is where the XPrize Foundation becomes a key component. It encourages the development of technology to change the world for the better through their prize competition. As Sherif Elsayed-Ali wrote in Amnesty International webpage, “technology can play an influential and positive role in helping to tackle humanity’s problems, including the many challenges confronting human rights globally.”
Among XPrize principles is their optimism. “We believe that solutions can come from anyone, anywhere and that some of the greatest minds of our time remain untapped, ready to be engaged by a world that is in desperate need of help. Solutions. Change. And radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. Call us crazy, but we believe.”
Their process begins with identifying the ‘grand challenges’ of our time, national or global crises or even opportunities where solutions are thought to be out of reach or impossible. Then they design and operate incentivized prize competitions to solve them. In XPrize this process is called visioneering.
XPrice offers opportunities for projects related to: space, oceans, health, transportation, learning, environment, energy, global development and security. Among their sponsors are Deloitte, Google and Qualcomm Foundation.
Regarding human rights, XPrize is currently offering the Anu & Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPrize which consists of a $1 million global competition “that challenges teams to leverage technology to empower communities with a transformative solution that ensures women’s safety. Armed with innovative safety nets, communities everywhere can rapidly respond to threats against any of its members, ensuring that help is always available when needed.”
The winning team’s solution will trigger an emergency alert while transmitting information to a network of community responders, all within 90 seconds and at an annual cost of $40 or less. The prize was launched on October 24, 2016 and teams have until 31 March 2017 to register. After a series of testing and assessment of prototypes the winner will be announced on June 2018.
They’ve also launched a Global Learning XPrize which challenges teams to “develop open source and scalable software that will enable children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic within 18 months.”
“Once the 18-month field-testing phase concludes, the prize purse will be objectively awarded to the team that generates the best international standardized test scores within the group of participating children.” Their goal is an empowered generation that will positively impact their communities, countries and the world.
This is a $15 million global competition that had 651 pre-registered teams, 198 registered teams and 135 competing teams. It was launched in 2014 and will announce its winner in April 2019.
Among its official teams are FingUY from Uruguay, NPowerKids from Brazil, and the Hard Fun Workshop also from Brazil.
“A number of technologies are advancing exponentially from artificial intelligence to robotics and additive manufacturing (3D printing) to synthetic biology — these will fundamentally change individual lives and societies. The international human rights framework, just like national legal and political systems, will have to adapt very fast, or become irrelevant.”