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The Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit at the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, is calling for contributions for the #Tech4Rights Expo, which will be held from 26 to 29 October 2021.

Download Call for Contributions

Background

New technologies have gained a ubiquitous character in human life and development. All the more, these technologies have influenced the ‘new normal’ which meant more reliance on digital tools especially in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. These technologies continue to offer a lifeline for social, economic, and political activities considering that social distancing is a crucial measure to manage the spread of the virus. The paradigm shifting effect of new technologies has impacted the operation of numerous sectors including healthcare, education, business, communication, and others. Disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoTs) and blockchain technology have had specific seismic effects on industries such as banking, communication, labour, and warfare, and influenced the launch of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Although Africa lags behind other continents in technological advancement, internet and mobile penetration, and infrastructural development, there is great potential for digital progression in Africa. This makes the continent a crucial stakeholder in the global conversation around enhancing the benefits of these technologies and addressing the disadvantages.

With respect to the human rights impacts of these technologies, while they have influenced the exercise of human rights, they have also posed threats to their enjoyment. In the absence of strong rights-respecting legislative, regulatory and administrative controls, the negative influence of digital technologies on human rights can be exacerbated. Unfortunately, the development of legal protections for human rights in the digital age has fallen behind technological advancements. In the African context, regional bodies have developed human rights instruments that provide policy direction on the intersection between human rights and new technologies in an attempt to bridge the gaps created by inadequate rights-respecting frameworks.  These include the revised Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the African Union’s Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection.

The enforcement of human rights protection frameworks on technology and human rights is however problematic. Governments have come under criticism for their poor commitment to protecting human rights in the digital age. This has been seen in the enactment of repressive cybersecurity and cybercrime laws and practices such as internet shutdowns and unlawful surveillance, especially in the Global South. Online service providers have become crucial partners in the human rights movement to help mitigate the negative impact of digital technologies on human rights. They have been called upon to adopt a human rights approach in the design and implementation of digital technologies. However, online service providers have to balance these responsibilities against their profit margin, and many times, the financial interests of their shareholders take precedence. Strong and sustained advocacy is therefore necessary to hold duty bearers to their human rights obligations.

This offers a snapshot of the multi-pronged approach necessary to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights in the digital age. This conversation needs to gain more traction through a multi-stakeholder, critical examination of the impact of new technologies on human rights, and a re-assessment of how to adopt new technologies for the advancement rather than detraction of human rights. Towards this end, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (the Centre) launched the #Tech4Rights campaign in 2020. This campaign focuses on the impact of new technologies on different aspects of human interaction including: businesses, democratic development, children’s rights, persons with disabilities, electronic evidence, strategic litigation and other key areas of human rights that intersect with new technologies. As part of this campaign, the Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit of the Centre will host an online #Tech4Rights Expo from 26 to 29 October 2021.    

Objectives

  • To facilitate the sharing of knowledge, experiences and lessons learnt in harnessing new technologies for the advancement of human rights, and combating challenges;
  • To provide a platform for engagement with duty bearers on adoption of human rights approaches to implementation of digital technologies in Africa;
  • To build stronger regional partnerships for advocacy on the effective use of digital technologies for human rights protection; and
  • To provide a space for creative minds to showcase innovative tools, applications and strategies for the promotion and protection of human rights in the digital age

Process

The Centre welcomes abstracts of not more than 250 words from interested persons on the theme of technology and human rights. The final contributions may include, but are not limited to blog articles, poems, videos, audio files, illustrations, artworks, comics, photographs, fictional stories, non-fictional stories, multimedia productions and performance art. 

Deadline extended

Prospective contributors are requested to submit a written abstract describing their potential submission to hlengiwe.dube@up.ac.za and marystella.simiyu@up.ac.za – no later than 30 August 2021 11:59 PM SAST (deadline extended).

Successful contributors will be contacted by 3 September 2021.

Output

A digital magazine on the contributionsform the #Tech4Rights Expo.

Contacts

For more information, please contact:

Hlengiwe Dube
Manager:
Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 4199
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743
hlengiwe.dube@up.ac.za

Marystella Auma Simiyu
Tutor: HRDA
Project Officer: Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 3810
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743
marystella.simiyu@up.ac.za