Economic and social inclusion and human rights

9 Dec 2021 08:30h - 10:00h

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Event report

Human rights, whether political, civil, social, or economic rights, are at the core of discussions on the potential of data to promote the common good.

The session, moderated by Ms Courtney Radsch (Member, Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG); Co-chair, Dynamic Coalition on the Sustainability of Journalism and News Media (DC-Sustainability)), discussed the benefits coming from the human-rights-centred use of data.

Ms Sarah Kiden (Technologist and Researcher, Mozilla Foundation) highlighted the digital inequalities which were brought to the fore due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how this helped to provide research, numbers, and statistics for the efficient advocacy and for addressing issues end users face. Kiden also mentioned the importance of Mozilla’s work on moving toward artificial intelligence (AI), which is helpful rather than harmful to people in regard to respecting privacy, fairness, trust, safety, transparency, and eventually shifting the conversation from personal end-user behaviour to a systematic change from companies.

Mr Steve Crown (Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft) explained how applying the UN guiding principles to internet tech challenges is similar to a ‘social contract’, but with a sharper focus on inclusive social and economic development. He pointed out that good regulation has to do with informing about the benefits and harms through a thoughtful engagement of both companies and participants. Crown stated that human-centred and responsible technology is at the core of Microsoft’s work and called for a multistakeholder dialogue and a deeper collaboration to improve laws.

Ms Jess N. Kropczynski (Associate Professor, Cincinnati University) focused on the importance of providing transparency around certain issues such as inequity, social and economic injustice, and corresponding digital policies. She used the example of emergency response in times of crisis and the challenge of balancing between assistance and preserving individuals’ privacy. Kropczynski urged for more neutral research of these issues, so they are not shadowed by profit-based and government research.

Mr Scott P. Campbell (Senior Human Rights and Technology Officer, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) stated how both COVID-19 and digital technologies have been accelerators of existing inequality and discrimination, and have brought data to the forefront. He shed light on the fundamental threats to democracy that were noticed in the damaging of the public digital space via internet shutdowns, as well as their impact on access to information, freedom of expression, and civil, economic, and political rights. Campbell also called for human rights due diligence, and conducting impact assessments in order to mitigate the risks of digital exclusion being enhanced by the use of digital technology. He concluded that UN guiding principles are not binding and that the IGF has a critical role to play both as a convener and as a helper in setting the compass to guide the development of the different governance frameworks.

By Ines Hfaiedh

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