Cross-posted on: http://theconversation.com/how-social-media-data-can-improve-peoples-lives-if-used-responsibly-75367
By: Stefaan G. Verhulst
In January 2015, heavy rains triggered unprecedented floods in Malawi. Over the next five weeks, the floods displaced more than 230,000 people and damaged over 64,000 hectares of land.
Almost half the country was labelled a “disaster zone” by Malawi’s government. And as the humanitarian crisis unfolded, relief agencies, such as the Red Cross were faced with the daunting task of allocating aid and resources to places that were virtually unrecorded by the country’s mapping data, and thus rendered almost invisible.
Humanitarian workers struggled to navigate in many of the most affected areas, and one result was that aid did not necessarily reach those most in need.
To prevent similar knowledge gaps in the future, researchers, volunteers and humanitarian workers in Malawi and elsewhere, have turned to an unlikely partner: Facebook.
In 2016, as part of its “Missing Maps” project, the Red Cross accessed Facebook’s rich population density data to find and map people who were critically vulnerable to natural disasters and health emergencies, but remained unrecorded in existing maps.
On Friday 31 March, HumanityX organised a panel session at RightsCon in Brussels, one of the largest gatherings for Human Rights and technology experts worldwide. The session was hosted in close collaboration with Benetech, Data&Society, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.
Cross-posted on: https://www.humanityx.nl/news/rightscon-panel-session-private-sector-data-responsibility/
By Jos Berens
Our session ‘Private Sector & Data Responsibility: Helping Refugees in a Digital Age’ featured contributions from Orange Telecom, Stripe, Mapbox and GeoPoll and was set up as a ‘moderated consultancy dialogue’, in which participants from various angles were invited to provide their perspectives on the sharing of digital data collected by the private sector, to help inform refugee assistance efforts.
Outcomes of the session
There was broad agreement on the need for adequate governance of digital data sharing by the private sector, highlighting that the rights for data subjects should be accompanied by adequate remedies, to make sure that people can actively enforce those rights. Given the uncertainty regarding risk and potential harms it is better to err on the side of caution: if it is not clear whether an organisation has the proper information security infrastructure in place, it is advisable not to share sensitive information, even if it could be valuable.
There is willingness among private sector actors to engage in data sharing for humanitarian efforts, but for this to happen, both the precise demand from the humanitarian side, as well as the appropriate governance of the data sharing arrangement need to be clear. Educational tools are key to inform those working on data use to ensure that best practices are adhered to.
Small scale experimentation in safe spaces will inform the next steps and several organisations present at the meeting expressed their interest in exploring collaborations. As platforms that bring together a wide variety of partners, HumanityX and the International Data Responsibility Group will continue to facilitate and support such explorations.
Josje Spierings is head of the Secretariat of the International Data Responsibility Group, a collaboration between the Data & Society Research Institute, Data-Pop Alliance, the GovLab at NYU, UN Global Pulse, Signal Program - Harvard Humanitarian Initiative - Harvard University and Leiden University.