Special Events

Advancing the New Machine, Human Rights and Technology Conference

Special Events
25 Apr, 2011

Advancing the New Machine, Human Rights and Technology Conference

Information technologies are gaining a significant role in advancing human rights research and advocacy. But technology alone will not make the difference; what will is the combination of the human rights community with the tools and innovations designed to support its work.

In May 2009 UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center hosted "Soul of the New Machine", an international conference focused on exploring the intersection of human rights, technology, and new media. Over 250 leading thinkers, civil society members, activists, programmers, and entrepreneurs had the chance to assess the "lay of the land" and discuss emerging technologies related to evidence gathering / documentation and advocacy and outreach. The conference was designed to be a meeting point between the tech-savvy world and the human rights community.

Two years later, much progress in the practice and implementation of human rights and technology projects call for a new opportunity to share experiences, best practices, and lessons learned from deploying technology in the field. Building on the success of the 2009 conference, Advancing the New Machine: Human Rights and Technology will convene human rights practitioners and technologists to discuss the progress, successes, and challenges that have emerged.


To facilitate the exchange of ideas and lessons learned, the conference will be organized around ten tool-oriented discussions and case-study lessons learned. The tool-oriented sessions will focus on the development of specific technologies and their application to human rights. These sessions include:

• Mobile data collection
• Mapping and geospatial innovations
• Security
• Databases and database management
• Long range data transmission

The case-study / lessons learned sessions will focus on real-life experience in using technology to advance human rights with a focus on 4 areas:

• Protecting Vulnerable Populations
• Disaster Response
• Early Warning Systems
• “Liberation” Technology and Democracy


In addition to the topical sessions, extended lunch periods will be designed for participants to reserve "topic" tables to convene informally with participants who share the same interests. Individuals may reserve / organize tables at registration or during the conference. A detailed schedule can be found on the conference website.


The "Dream Meets Reality" Challenge is an open submission session to share innovative ideas about technology applications for human rights that have yet to become a reality. The discussion is conceived as a brainstorming session where selected thinkers will be able to present their idea while a panel of technology experts will comment on the feasibility and resources available to make the idea come true.

The selection of "thinkers" will be based on an open web-submission of a 1-2 minute video describing the innovative idea and how it would help improve human rights. The selected thinkers will be invited to present their idea at the conference and benefit from expert comments.

Submission details can be found on the conference website.


The conference is intended to serve as a meeting ground between the tech-world and the human rights community. While the conference is dedicated to share lessons learned, it is also open to participants with no or little experience in the applications of technologies to human rights, and socially-minded techies who are interested in exploring how their skills can be valuable for the protection of human rights.

Presented by the Human Rights Center, UC Berkeley, in partnership with the UC Berkeley School of Information, Payson Center for International Development, and Berkeley Center for New Media.

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