Meet The Hague Hacks: Connecting Tech and Human Rights

Written by Nina Nout

At The Hague Hacks, we’re all about connecting the worlds of peace and technology. From our annual The Hague Hack Festival, to our events, to building an innovative platform for creating new tech solutions to human rights issues; we are ‘hacking’ the landscape of human rights issues in collaboration with our extensive multidisciplinary network. We want to connect people from different backgrounds to solve human rights issues, and we’re excited to share our progress on this mission.

In December 2018, we brought people from the tech industry, human rights advocates, academics, diaspora members, students and designers for the second annual The Hague Hacks Festival. We unpacked and contextualized five human rights issues from five countries with the help of human rights defenders from those respective communities. Then, we brainstormed solutions to the pressing human rights issues in those countries. The event gave us a wealth of new ideas and perspectives. The Bangladesh group emerged with the strongest plausible tech solution, and we have since focused on developing their concept and collaborating with tech companies. You can read more about the event here.

 

It is becoming increasingly important to find tech solutions to human rights issues in Bangladesh. The number of internet users in Bangladesh has sky-rocketed, from 100,000 in 2000 to over 92 million people as of February 2019 [1, 2]. The rapid technological advancements and increased internet usage have provided an (inter)national platform for human rights activists, but have also resulted in a rise of online harassment and threats. Furthermore, the government is cracking down on privacy and freedom of expression online. International independent observers fear this is an attempt to limit free speech and criticism. [3, 4]

 

Our mission is to address these issues through technological and social solutions. In the last two years, we’ve built a team of inspiring human rights activists, researchers, designers and volunteers to work towards our goal. Since The Hague Hacks Festival, we have brought more people from different disciplines together to approach the issue of online censoring and oppression in Bangladesh from different angles.

 

Today, we are very happy to tell you more about our upcoming events, current research, and our activities.

 

Events

June will be an eventful month for us (literally!). On June 13, we’ll be at the Border Sessions Festival with our very own design lab to create a collective of tech companies and human rights defenders. We want to connect the human rights defenders urgently in need of tech-solutions with tech and design companies.

 

At the end of June, we are collaborating with Nextview for a closed design event at their Design Lab on the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. The focus of this design session is to connect the tech industry with human rights activists to evaluate the tech solutions from Bangladesh group and begin development and prototyping.

 

We’re very excited for these events and the progress they will bring! The Nextview Event is closed, but we’re happy to welcome interested participants to our Border Sessions Event on June 13. So if you or someone you know of is a member of The Hague’s tech community, please get in touch via haguehacks[at]thehaguepeace.org. We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Research

Over the last few months, members of our team have been conducting in-depth qualitative research about the issues human rights defenders in Bangladesh face online. This research is essential to validate the ideas that emerged from The Hague Hacks Festival, and ensure that any tech-solutions meet the needs of human rights defenders or aid the victims of human rights violations. Our preliminary results are both surprising and insightful. We’ve identified some key issues related to safe internet practices and online harassment. Given the sensitive nature of the information shared to us by human rights defenders, we will only release an overall conclusion of our observations. Keep an eye on our page for our upcoming post about this research.

 

Activities

Based on the findings of our qualitative research and past events, we are developing projects to support human rights activists in safe online practices. Aside from that, we are working on a video of The Hague Hacks Festival to capture the essence and energy of our organization. We also want to peak the interest of human rights defenders, problem-solvers, and passionate diaspora members. Finally, we are also collaborating with a few talented individuals in the creation of a new podcast that is coming to our site soon.

 

We’ll keep you updated here about our events, activities, and progress. We’ll also bring you the latest news about human rights, tech and the best internet practices to keep you safe. So, check in with us soon!

 

Fotografie Eelkje Colmjon.

 

If you are interested in The Hague Hacks, or if you would like to learn more, collaborate, volunteer or just want to drop a note, we’re happy to hear from you. Send us an email at haguehacks[at]thehaguepeace.org

 

References

  1. Asia Internet Stats by Country and 2019 Population Statistics. (2019). Internet World Stats.
  2. Study: Internet users in Bangladesh have increased 800x since 2000. (2018, October 23). Dhaka Tribute.
  3. Bangladesh: Crackdown on Social Media. (2018, October 19). HRW.
  4. Bangladesh’s new digital law will silence critics, rights groups say. (2018, October 9). CNN.