Singularity University, Amnesty International Turning to Tech to Tackle Human Rights Challenges

Benefit corporation Singularity University (SU) is in ambitious pursuit of solutions for eleven “global grand challenges” that its experts have identified: environment, security, health, learning, energy, food, prosperity, water, space, disaster resilience, and governance. SU hopes to use technology to address these challenges with the support of its Developing Organization Partners and their expertise. The latest partner is with human rights organization Amnesty International – a partnership that will focus on applying technological innovations to address the human rights issues associated with security and governance.

“Many human rights challenges arising from conflicts, persecution and inequality can seem daunting and unsolvable,” the deputy director of global issues at Amnesty International, Sherif Elsayed-Ali, said. “In addressing them, we must combine investigations with activism and practical solutions. With innovative uses of technology, we can develop new ways of raising awareness of human rights issues, engage more people and find practical solutions for human rights problems.”

Their first initiative will use virtual reality (VR) as a public engagement tool to help inspire action and empower activists. Amnesty International ran a successful VR campaign in 2015 that virtually transported people to the war-torn streets of Aleppo, Syria, where thousands of civilians have died as a result of barrel bombings. The experience attempted to capture the devastation caused by the bombings and “elicited both a strong, emotional responses from the public and a high level of donor engagement.”

“Core to Singularity University is our mission to ensure basic needs are met for all people, sustain and improve quality of life and mitigate future risks,” Rob Nail, the CEO and associate founder of SU, said. “Today, we are at a pivotal moment where technology has the power to significantly impact this mission, as demonstrated by Amnesty International's ability to leverage virtual reality to help with its social justice campaigns.”

Amnesty International will also add insights to SU conferences and its Global Solutions Program (GSP), a 10-week intensive education program. Existing SU Developing Organization Partners include Yunus Social Business, UNICEF, Ashoka, SociaLab, Stockholm Resilience Centre, World Resources Institute, Field Innovation Team, and Viva Rio.

“We look forward to future collaborations, and the opportunity to explore with them other powerful tools ranging from 3D printing to robotics,” Nail added.

The United Nations’ launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) last year spurred a series of similar collaborations, including a recent commitment from 30 CEOs to halve global food waste by 2030 and a call to action from the Consumer Goods Forum to fight forced labor. Meanwhile, Hewlett Packard is looking to the diverse perspectives of the public for potential solutions: the company’s Living Progress Challenge is seeking ideas and proposals for technological solutions that can improve people’s lives.

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