Technology innovation in the context of human rights

technology_human-rights_mbugua-njihiaWhen thinking about innovation, more so the disruptive kind we tend to focus on things like market research, disruption quotient , user growth, monetization, venture capital and the many other issues that may be pertinent in nurturing a good idea through the growth cycles to profitability or a good exit.

Data is king in a consumer centered marketplace and calls for open data in its various forms, from both governments and private sector has taken center stage with many initiatives setup to mine data and offer new perspectives on consumers that lay hidden. Data scientists are constantly creating and tweaking algorithms to make better sense of  the data that the world churns out daily. This all comes together further when combined with hardware evolution.

I had the honor of studying and networking with emerging leaders from across Africa while at the London School of Economics under the Africa Leadership programme, where upon researching into what their technology needs are back home, a strong call for the place of human rights in the creation and development of new technology or the re-purposing of the old came up. The Freedom Online Conference, held in Kenya early September  also touched on matters linked to technology citing the growing number of users who are getting online and using the internet for various  purposes but looked more into the policy and governance issues.

The respect of human rights should be fundamental in the setup of technology based solutions. And not to mistaken to have grown civil society roots, I chose to look at it from the context of a user, who is born with certain inherent rights that are captured in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 12 which speaks to the right to privacy and article 19 on the freedom of thought and expression are the ones I believe are most prone to abuse, neglect or sheer ignorance.

Technology is often times invisible, its benefits almost clouding the user to what happens in the back; the connections, code, databases, servers and various other processes governed by math.

It is a high time that techpreneurs across Africa begin looking at the impact of their technological innovations beyond growing user bases and monetization, as human rights are essentially what defines our existence and interactions with one another. Technology can be an enabler, disabler or invader with  communication  and transparency on its use and effect,  key in creating an understanding and calm among  those who use it.

An Africa based entrepreneur in the pursuit of opportunities without regard to resources currently controlled striving to build services that have real-world value for my beloved continent and beyond while having fun along the way.

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