Human Rights Monitoring

Scenes from Amman: Mobiles and Mapping

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Dec 15, 2009

"Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action," a workshop co-hosted by and UNICEF Innovation in Amman, Jordan, featured Ignite Talks -- five minute presentations by inspiring people who are using mobiles for social action -- and interviews with key participants.

Igniting the attendees, Brian Herbert presented Ushahidi, a crowdsourcing platform that allows users to map crisis information from their mobiles. In an interview, JD Godchaux discussed NiJeL: Community Impact Through Mapping, which helps organizations share information and tell stories through maps.

Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Dec 07, 2009

We will be blogging and twittering this week from a workshop we are co-hosting on Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action in Amman, Jordan.

Co-hosted by UNICEF’s country office in Iraq, UNICEF Innovation, and, this three-day gathering is bringing invited experts from around the world together to explore some of the key issues related to using mobiles for data collection and analysis of some of the toughest social issues.

Why are we hosting this event?

With the ubiquity of mobile technology, data collection and monitoring of key indicators from the ground up by affected populations is now possible. Mobile technology in the hands of people can now be more than a person-to-person communication medium but can be used for capturing, classifying and transmitting image, audio, location and other data, interactively or autonomously.

Mobile Phones in Human Rights: Reflections from Open Mobile Camp

Posted by admin on Nov 09, 2009

Mobile phones in human rights monitoring is still relatively rare and there are few examples where mobile shave been used successfully in this field. In this video from the recent Open Mobile Camp in New York, three experts are discussing their projects and thinking on the use of mobiles in human rights work.  Nathan Freitas discusses security issues in regard to using mobiles in this field and his project Guardian, Enrique Piraces from Human Rights Watch describes his thinking in regard to the use of mobiles in human rights work, and Emily Jacobi features Handheld Human Rights and the mobile tools that are part of the project.

Posted by on Jan 01, 1970


Mobiles Hidden in Monks' Robes

Posted by admin on Nov 04, 2009

This article was written by Emily Jacobi from Digital Democracy. We are publishing her extensive report on Burmese dissidents' use of technology in three parts. Names of individuals in this account have been changed to protect their identity. 

Burma – a modern anomaly

In September 2007, Buddhist clergy in the Southeast Asian nation of Burma (also known as Myanmar) led hundreds of thousands of citizens in peaceful protest against the ruling military regime. Armed with camera phones and limited internet access, they coordinated the largest protests the country had seen in 19 years, and broadcast the story to the outside world. These tools proved so threatening that the Burmese government responded by shutting off all Internet and mobile phone communications for five days. Why is this significant?

Globally, mobile phone penetration has reached an estimated 4.6 billion subscribers by the end of 2009, more than half the world’s population. Yet in Burma, mobile phone usage remains the exception rather than the rule. Government-imposed barriers and prohibitive prices have kept mobile penetration to approximately 1% of the population, a rate comparable to Internet access in the country.

Burma’s technological isolation accompanies the country’s greater political isolation. Ruled by a military dictatorship since 1962, the nation has become increasingly estranged from the global community. Even the name, changed from Burma to Myanmar by the military government in 1989, is disputed around the world as well as among Burmese political groups. Economic sanctions have been leveled against the country by the US and EU for its human rights abuses, and The Economist ranked Burma163 out of 167 countries in its 2008 Democracy Index.

Burma’s ruling military junta does maintain business deals with neighboring countries including China and Thailand, but the nation lags far behind its neighbors economically and technologically.  While there were only 610,000 mobile users in the country at the end of 2008 (1% of the population), India and China were expected to account for a quarter of global mobile penetration – approximately 1 billion subscriptions - by the beginning of the year, according to the ITU. In neighboring Thailand, meanwhile, approximately 92% of the population is covered by mobile telephony.

Compared to its neighbors, Burma’s mobile access seems woefully behind. Despite this, mobiles have played a critical role in crisis moments, such as the monk-led protests in 2007 and in coordinating recovery from the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in May 2008.  Additionally, mobile availability in neighboring countries has been effectively harnessed by Burmese groups operating in the bordering countries, where an estimated 3.5 million Burmese have been displaced.

Digital Media in Conflict-Prone Societies

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 22, 2009
Digital Media in Conflict-Prone Societies data sheet 3512 Views
Ivan Sigal
Publication Date: 
Oct 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The complex relationship between media and conflict is longstanding. Traditional mass media have been used to amplify and extend viewpoints and ideologies, to persuade audiences at home, and to influences opposing sides in conflict. However, both media and conflict have changed markedly in recent years. Many 21st century wars are not only about holding territory, but about gaining public support and achieving legal status in the international arena. Governments seek to hold onto power through persuasion as much as through force. Media are increasingly essential elements of conflict, rather than just functional tools for those fighting. At the same time, newer media technologies have increased communication and information dissemination in the context of conflict. In particular, the growth of citizen media has changed the information space around conflict, providing more people with the tools to record and share their experiences with the rest of the world.

Mobile Citizen Project Launches: Incubator Fund for Mobile Projects in Latin America

Posted by CorinneRamey on Oct 20, 2009

The Mobile Citizen Project, which aims to fund and support mobile initiatives for social change in Latin America, launches today. The program is a project of the Science and Technology Division of the Inter-American Development Bank, with the support of the Italian Trust Fund for Information and Communication Technology for Development. is a media partner, powering the Program's "Ideas Box."

According to the project's press release, the "Mobile Citizen Program aims to accelerate the development and implementation of mobile services to address acute social and economic problems. We will provide support to develop citizen-centric solutions that target low-income groups in urban and rural areas of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region."

The Kubatana Trust

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Aug 26, 2009

Kubatana is dedicated to improving accessibility to human rights and civic information in Zimbabwe.

Organization Type: 

Digital Democracy

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Aug 24, 2009

Digital Democracy (D2) develops information and communication tools to address the needs of the vulnerable and disempowered communities where we work. Our work strengthens social bonds within and among communities, fostering networking and civic participation. We have been working for two years with the Burmese community in Thailand, Bangladesh, India, and China as well as with resettled Burmese populations in Indiana, Washington, DC and New York.

Organization Type: 
109 W. 27th St., 6th Floor
New York City
Postal code: 

Mobile Phones, Human Rights and Social Justice in Africa

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 13, 2009
Mobile Phones, Human Rights and Social Justice in Africa data sheet 3214 Views
Fahamu South Africa
Publication Date: 
Jan 2007
Publication Type: 

This report was written by the organization Fahamu in preparation for a workshop to form regional network of activists who use mobile technology in Africa in May 2007. The report looks into the use of mobile technology in Africa by human rights and social justice organizations. The report seeks to establish who is using or developing mobile phone technology in relation to human rights and social justice in Africa. It also provides a background synopsis of mobile phone technology and activism in Africa, an assessment of those who have used mobile phone technology for social activism and/or service delivery and an impression of groups who may be interested in or planning to use mobile phone technology in the future.

The Kenyan 2007 Elections and Their Aftermath: The Role of Media and Communication

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 13, 2009
The Kenyan 2007 Elections and Their Aftermath: The Role of Media and Communication data sheet 3960 Views
Abdi, Jamal; Deane, James
Publication Date: 
Apr 2008
Publication Type: 

This 16-page policy briefing from the BBC World Trust Service analyses the role of the media in the Kenyan [January 2008] post-election violence. It is designed to enable an understanding of what has happened in Kenya in the belief that these issues have important policy implications and consequences in many countries. It situates its analysis within debates on democratic governance and poverty in order to contribute to a process of extracting lessons from the crisis. The briefing examines political polarity in the media and its function as a political tool. It discusses the inciting of violence and the role of the local language or vernacular media, as well as the media's role in calming the violence. "The role of the media in Kenya's violence has ...raised questions of whether media can be too free in fragile states such as Kenya....[The] briefing argues that the role of the local language media during the crisis was the product of a chaotic regulatory policy and the lack of training - especially of talk show hosts, whose programmes provided the platform for most of the hate speech....It argues that many local language radio [stations] played a role in calming tensions as well as inflaming them, and could be a powerful mechanism for reconciliation."

$10,000 Challenge for Unblockable, Anonymous, Encrypted Mobile Internet Access

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jun 30, 2009

Nova Spivack, a serial entrepreneir and CEO of, just issued a small $10,000 challenge for an "unblockable connection to the Internet":

From the challenge description:

Must work on mobile devices that are widely used in Asia (China in particular, but also Myanamar) and the Middle East (Iran for example). These are regions where State-sponsored Internet blocking is rampant.

Must be possible to download and install by a non-technical device owner using a simple one-click install, with an optional settings step and optional advanced settings.

African Film Makers, Censorship, and Mobile Phones

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Apr 27, 2009

Kiripi Katembo Siku, an art school student from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a film maker with ingenuity and a mobile. He circumvents the restrictions and government censorship in Kinshasa, the country's capital, by attaching his mobile phone to a toy car, setting it to film, and then giving it to a girl to pull behind her on a piece of string as she walks through the streets of Kinshasa.

The resulting "Voiture en Carton" ("Cardboard Car") provides a rare glimpse of street-life in Kinshasa. The seven-minute film gives the viewer a clandestine look at life in the capital -- feet of children, youth gambling, and an UN jeep passing by.


According to CNN, he is one of a number of filmmakers in the DR Congo who says that using a mobile phone allows him to film in ways that were previously not possble. Film makers there say that filming permits are not given out anymore to avoid exposing corruption, poverty, and crime. Those brave enough to defy the authorities and shoot without permission risk fines, arrest, or worse.

Reflections from the UCB Human Rights Center Mobile Challenge - and a few interesting apps

Posted by MelissaLoudon on Apr 25, 2009

NetSquared just announced the top ten projects in UCB Human Rights Center Mobile Challenge, as chosen by community vote. The challenge, which was open to any project using mobile technology to support human rights work, had over fifty entrants from a wide spectrum of human rights organisations, technical experts and issue-based groups. Three winners will be announced at the Soul of the New Machine conference in May.

Human Rights and Mobile Apps: A New Challenge

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Feb 02, 2009

The Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley is announcing the Human Rights Center Mobile Challenge. The deadline for submission of applications is March 13, 2009. Winners will receive cash awards of $15,000 (first place), $10,000 (second place), and $5,000 (third place) to implement their ideas.

While there have been few implementations of mobile technoogy so far in human rights work, recent innovations have the potential to be used to expose war crimes and other serious violations of human rights, and disseminate this information in real time throughout the world. Mobile phones, combined with GPS, cameras, video, audio, and SMS are transforming the way the world understands and responds to emerging crises. Handheld data collection devices, such as PDAs, provide researchers with new ways of documenting mass violence and attitudes toward peace, justice, and social reconstruction in conflict zones.

Mobile Surveillance and How to Avoid it: A new primer from

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Nov 11, 2008

In our ongoing and ever-expanding series of how-to resources for NGOs and grassroots organizations using mobile technology in their work, we are releasing a new primer on "Mobile Surveillance."  Our reviewer, Melissa Loudon, gives an overview of mobile surveillance risks and tips and tools on how to prevent surveillance for secure communications.

New MobileActive Video on YouTube: Mobiles in Human Rights

Posted by CorinneRamey on Apr 01, 2008

The newest addition to the MobileActive YouTube channel is a video interview with Tamaryn Nelson, the program coordinator for Latin America and the Carribean at WITNESS. In the interview, Tamaryn discusses the Hub, a website that she calls a "YouTube for human rights," which allows people to upload videos of human rights and create campaigns around them by adding context and joining discussion groups. The site has some videos taken on mobile phones and plans to add direct upload via mobile in the future.

Other MobileActive videos include an interview with Alô Cidadão! a Brazilian NGO that ran an SMS campaign for community information and an interview with Graziela Tanaka of about mobilizing world opinion through SMS campaigns.

SOS SMS: A Text Helpline for Philippine Workers

Posted by CorinneRamey on Feb 14, 2008

A single computer, hooked up to a modem in Bobby Soriano's house in the Philippines, receives a steady of stream of text messages begging for help. There have been messages from Philippine seamen, who, after being accused of the murder of a Korean captain, were forced to confess by Omani police. There was a Philippine domestic worker in Lebanon who was forced to flee to the mountains to escape Israeli bombings, and a message from twenty Philippine sailors who were evicted from their ship by police near Denmark. In each of these cases, a single SMS message with the keyword "SOS" was sent to a hotline in the Philippines, activating a network of nonprofits and government agencies to come to the workers' rescue.

Posted by on Jan 01, 1970


Turning Shopping into Advocacy via a Mobile Phone

Posted by CorinneRamey on Jan 22, 2008

Ever wondered how Walmart ranks when it comes to supporting gay and lesbian employment equality? What about Starbucks, Coca-Cola, or Microsoft? Employment equality is an issue that the gay and lesbian community has advocated for for years. It has now moved into the cellphone age with point-of-purchase company information for conscious consumers. The U.S.-based Human Rights Campaign recently launched a new tool: An SMS buyers guide that that brings instant information about businesses' support of gay and lesbian equality straight to your mobile phone.

Human rights campaign corporate equality index image

SMS as Information Channel in Post-Election Kenya

Posted by CorinneRamey on Jan 21, 2008

Post-election violence has exploded in Kenya in the wake of the December 27 presidential elections. Ethnic killings -- which today's New York Times suggests may have been carefully planned -- have increased, and estimates of the death toll range from 650 to over 1000. In the midst of this, people both in and outside the country are using mobile phones in innovative ways to communicate political knowledge and circumvent the media blackout.

Mobile Phones in Human Rights Reporting

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Dec 12, 2007

Mobile phones and global internet dissemination are important tools in citizen "sousveillance" and reporting of human rights abuses, notes an article in the BBC. Reporting on a panel at the UN in honor of Human Rights Day on the significance of new media in human rights. I, as a representative of was part of the panel.  The article notes rightly some of the potential of mobiles in documenting abuses through video and audio:

The footage, often shot on mobile phones and digital cameras, can be instrumental in alerting the international community to human rights violations.

Using Mobile Phones to Advance Human Rights

Posted by CorinneRamey on Dec 10, 2007

A new website called the Hub, calling itself "the global platform for human rights media and action," has its official beta launch today in honor of International Human Rights Day. The Hub, a project of human rights advocacy group WITNESS, hopes to create a new space for human rights related video content, including footage shot on mobile phones.

Tamaryn Nelson, program coordinator for Latin American and the Caribbean at WITNESS, told MobileActive that the Hub goes beyond the capabilities of YouTube. "There's no real place for human rights related material [on YouTube]," she said. "YouTube has tons of videos, but if you go onto YouTube and try to find a video related to human rights it's like finding a needle in a haystack. With the Hub, Tamaryn said, human rights advocates will be able to create a campaign around their videos, join online chats, provide context, and frame videos from a human rights perspective.