On November 14th Sida hosted a very popular one-day conference on ”ICT: Threat or Opportunity for Human Rights”. Transparency was, naturally, one of the main subjects. One of the two panels was dedicated to discussing transparency reporting in the ICT and telecom sector.
The conference was arranged as a part of Sida’s series of “Development Talks” events, giving panelists and audience an opportunity to meet and discuss contemporary topics. The role of ICT:s related to Human Rights, both opportunities and challenges.
Part of the transparency panel (pictured above) was Allon Bar (Ranking Digital Rights), Milka Pietikainen (Industry Dialogue), Brett Solomon (Access Now!) and Marcin de Kaminski (Sida). Moderator was tech journalist Julia Skott. Marcin de Kaminski, who works as a Policy Specialist on Freedom of Expression and ICT at Sida, held a presentation focusing on Sida’s view on transparency issues, an issue which also was mentioned by Sida Director General Charlotte Petri Gornitzka in her opening speech:
“As being great advocates of transparency and accountability as methodological fundaments, Sida is very happy to see the movement of more transparent operations in the field of ICTs. As the world is constantly being even more connected, a lot of questioning eyes fall those who act as they had something to hide. As big telecom operators start working on their openness, we and other actors can get involved in the central issues of ICT and Human Rights in a more informed way. Suddenly, we get the possibility to understand what is going on, getting an insight in the difficult circumstances under which some companies along with many Sida partners are working.”
Another panel was held on the topic of synergies between the ICT sector and human rights defenders. This panel was slightly larger, and included Lucy Purdon (Institute for Human Rights and Business), Robert Hårdh (Civil Rights Defenders), Eva Blum-Dumontet (Privacy Internal), Henrik Toremark (MTG) and Per Nordlund (Lead Policy Specialist on Democracy and Human Rights, Sida). Once again, to quote our Sida DG:
“We have already identified the ICT, the telecoms sector and the media sector as crucial in providing infrastructure and tools for development of societies and empowerment of people. But from time to another we understand that this is not an easy task to take on. Some of those who best understand the challenges of ICT implementations are the civil society organisations working with human rights defenders, learning about the necessity of open, free and secure ICTs in the most obvious and devastating ways. If we agree on the basic fundamentals of democracy and human rights, we need to solve this. Hopefully we can today pinpoint some of these common issues and see how we could help each other in navigating this difficult terrain.”
In total around 130 external guests attended the event, along with some 50 internal Sida staff. This makes this Development Talks event the most popular of all times, showing the massive interest for the panelists and joint issues of ICT and Human Rights. As a special extra, a parallel seminar with Mr Bill Gates from the Gates Foundation was aired at the Developments Talks event. Even though Mr Gates’ main focus was on preventive measures in the health sector, there was some clearly relevant overlaps:
Footnote: Read more on ICT/telco transparency reporting in this post by James Losey, Berkman Center for Internet Studies at Harward University: “Who publishes Transparency Reports?“.