Human Rights

Reaching Those Beyond Big Data

By Panthea Lee // March 6, 2013

We’ve made great strides in data-driven policymaking, open government, and civic technology—many of the folks in this room have made significant contributions in these domains. But, as we know, many people, even here in New York City, still live “off the grid”—and the issues of access go beyond “digital divide”.

As a designer working on governance and development issues—fields where economists regularly eat anthropologists for lunch—this is something I think a lot about.

In the era of Big Data, as we become increasingly reliant on capital-d Data, I wonder what might exist in the negative space? Who are we not capturing in our datasets? And how might we reach them?

A few months ago, I met a young woman from Benin who I will call Fatou (not her real name). Fatou had been adopted by an American preacher on mission in Benin, and … Read More »

City 2.0: A Call for Inclusivity

By Panthea Lee // December 18, 2012

This is a modified version of a talk from TEDxDumbo, where the theme was City 2.0.

Cities matter.

For the first time in human history, over half of the world’s population are urban animals. By 2050, the United Nations projects that the portion of our planet residing in urban areas could rise to 70 percent. We live in a world in which urban problems will become, almost by definition, national and international problems. Cities are the workshops in which many of the world’s most intractable challenges—from poverty alleviation to environmental sustainability—will be solved.

Here at Reboot, we are deeply interested in improving our urban environments. Specifically, we want to improve the interactions people have with the institutions that serve them, and in the process, improve the lived experience. The notion of City 2.0—the idea that we have at our disposal the technologies, relationships, and human … Read More »

Hurricane Sandy as Seen from the Niger Delta

By Zack Brisson // November 8, 2012

I have had a strange experience of watching Super Storm Sandy devastate the resilient city that Reboot calls home. As my colleagues and friends faced terrifying waters, set up makeshift offices where power was available, and helped their neighbors dig out from the storm, I have been watching idly by through images mediated by the likes of CNN and the Internet.

My distance from the suffering at home has been surreally conflated with my proximity to a similar, and inarguably greater, tragedy. I’ve spent most of the last few months in or around Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. During this period, the region has experienced the kind of devastation through floods that come once in a hundred years and they have catastrophically destroyed the homes and livelihoods of countless individuals and communities.

Tackling Human Trafficking

By Mollie Ruskin // March 12, 2012

Here at Reboot, we’re honoured to be partnering with Safe Horizon, a preeminent service agency for trafficked persons* in New York City. Over the coming months, we’ll be working with Safe Horizon to design and deliver materials about their support services to trafficking survivors — and developing tools to measure their impact.

Victims of trafficking are often hard to reach — which is why we’ve been called in to help identify key opportunities for impact. We will be building upon a strong history and existing body of work. The anti-trafficking community, in the US and globally, has been highly creative in its efforts to support these isolated populations.

Mobile Justice in 500 Words

By Kate Krontiris // July 13, 2011

“Mobile justice” is the idea that mobile technologies, broadly defined, can be used to extend and improve access to justice. An emerging field, mobile justice includes initiatives such as virtual courts in Kenya, live-streamed court proceedings in Massachusetts, and SMS-sharing of legal judgments in Ghana. These innovations can be launched by judicial systems, government agencies, civil society groups, or even technology companies, and almost always require the strong collaboration of all of these stakeholders.

The human rights movement in the last 50 years has done an excellent job of criminalizing those acts that plague most poor people across the globe, including extortion, human trafficking, and child labor. What is classified as a crime, however, is not always punished as such. Often, this is because the judicial systems in developing nations do not have the capacity required to enact sanctions, due to infrastructure and geographical challenges. In addition, citizens are often poorly informed of their laws and rights, court procedures, and available dispute resolution channels.

Core Questions in Technology and Human Rights

By Emma Gardner // June 20, 2011

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the 2011 Personal Democracy Forum conference where I sat in on a panel about technology and human rights. The discussion ranged from safety concerns for human rights activists using social media (see Jillian C. York’s “Safety and Social Networks in the Middle East”) to whether niche human rights technology platforms might be a better option (not necessarily, says’s Susannah Vila). The question, however, that I’ve been mulling over is how and when might the actions of developers and designers in Silicon Valley or New York City lead to grave consequences for citizens a world away.

In a globalized world, technology originally designed to solve a particular problem for a subset of people in the US (say, allowing college students to stay in touch and flirt through wall posts, photos, and pokes) very well could spread to another part of the world and be used for a completely different purpose (say, organizing protests, demonstrations, and movements in the Middle East). Given this, how can software developers, technology enthusiasts, and designers better anticipate and design for unexpected use-cases?