Category Archives: Digital technologies

Enter the Cyborgs: Health & human rights in the digital age

It was a pleasure to co-edit this special section of the Health and Human Rights Journal with Carmel Williams on “Big Data, Technology, Artificial Intelligence and the Right to Health”. It gathers a diverse group of anthropologists, human rights lawyers, tech researchers, rights activists, and UN policy officials to explore early thinking on this rapidly emerging field.

As Carmel and I wrote in our editorial, COVID-19 has forced many of us into a strange new intimacy with our phones and laptops: those of us in the elite with the privilege to work from home have virtually melded with our machines. Personally, I don’t think I’ve been farther than one room’s length from my smartphone since March 2020. So if we are now basically cyborgs…living “on the boundary between fact and fiction” (Haraway 1995), what use are 20th century human rights?

A bunch of smart people tackled this and other questions, ranging from the rights of children in the digital age, to the role of tech in human rights investigations, to the role of the private sector and UN agencies, to the possibilities for new forms of civil society and community engagement in the digital space. The issue is available for free download here.

Contact Tracing Apps: Extra Risks for Women and Marginalized Groups

Reprinted from Health and Human Rights JournalApril 29, 2020

The COVID-19 lockdown has proven economically devastating, and to enable people to move freely and start national economies moving also, many governments are exploring digital contact tracing. Mobile phone apps that track individual movements can enable real-time health surveillance and case management. However, once it exists, that data on health and individual movements can pose real threats for everyone—particularly for women and girls, and for marginalized and disfavored groups. Racing to embrace digital contact tracing without putting laws and policies in place to address the stigma surrounding the epidemic, and to protect the rights of those most marginalized, risks undermining the goal of epidemic control. Continue reading

A democracy deficit in digital health?

PERCo_CL15_biometric_controllerFrom Health and Human Rights, January 16, 2020

By Sara L. M. Davis, Kenechukwu Esom, Rico Gustav, Allan Maleche, and Mike Podmore

In 1994, when Health and Human Rights was launched by editor Jonathan Mann, it appeared-in print-in a very different world: one in which the internet had just been created, and could only be accessed through dial-up telephone lines paid for by the minute; cell phones were heavy, clunky, and unaffordable for most. Our thinking about health and human rights, formed before the digital age, must now advance to keep pace with its new risks and opportunities. Continue reading