Innovative ideas sought to advance human rights

Mobile phone cameras capture protests in Egypt. A public-private partnership aims to tap the same technology to address and prevent atrocities. Photo by: Darla Hueske / CC BY-ND

In the health care sector, mobile phones are increasingly being used to deliver services in hard-to-reach areas. Now, a public-private partnership aims to tap the same technology to address and prevent atrocities.

The Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention is a competition seeking new tools that can be used to document atrocities in conflict states such as Syria, or gather information from hard-to-access areas. While it isn’t confined to just mobile phones, a number of potential solutions could make use of the technology.

The challenge, a Humanity United and U.S. Agency for International Development initiative, is divided into five parts; the first two started accepting applications late last month and will run until Nov. 29. One of the challenges aims to find new technologies that can help collect and secure evidence of human rights abuses without putting a person’s life at risk.

The technology is important to bring perpetrators to justice, as well as for “truth and reconciliation processes,” USAID’s Mark Goldenbaum said in a Twitter Q&A days after the challenge’s launch. It can also benefit human rights groups, which may face reprisal in the course of collecting such information.

The challenge is open to individuals or groups around the world. Interested parties are required to submit a five-page concept note that should include a detailed description of the proposed idea, its potential impact, feasibility and scalability.

Applicants should also submit “any supporting information, publications, real-world use cases, or examples that reinforce the validity of the proposed solution,” Michael Kleinmann, director of investments at Humanity United, told Devex in an email.

USAID will grant $10,000 prize money per challenge, which could have up to three winners. Judges include Alex Ross, senior adviser for innovation at the U.S. Department of State, and Samantha Power, special assistant to the president and senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights at the National Security Council.

The other three challenges will open in January, after winners for the first two challenges are announced.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.