Carnegie Mellon University
August 10, 2016

Advancing the New Machine: Human Rights and Technology Conference

Advancing the New Machine: Human Rights and Technology Conference

Summary: The Center for Human Rights Science at Carnegie Mellon co-sponsored this conference on the use of technology in human rights work.  We also organized a session on Databases and Database Management.  The conference was be held on April 26-27, 2011 on the campus of UC-Berkeley.  For more information, please go to the conference website.

Description: Information technologies are gaining a significantrole in advancing human rights research and advocacy. But technology alone will not make the difference; what will is the combination of human rights defenders with the tools specifically designed to support their work.

In May 2009 UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center hosted "Soul of a New Machine," an international conference focused on exploring the intersection of human rights, technology, and new media. Over 250 leading thinkers, civil society members, activists, programmers, and entrepreneurs had the chance to assess the ‘lay of the land' and discuss emerging technologies related to evidence gathering / documentation and advocacy and outreach. The conference was designed to be a meeting point between the tech-savvy world and the human rights community.

Two years later, much progress in the practice and implementation of human rights and technology projects call for a new opportunity to share experiences, best practices, and lessons learned from deploying technology in the field. Building on the success of the 2009 conference, "Advancing the New Machine: Human Rights and Technology" convened human rights practitioners and technologists to discuss the progress, successes, and challenges that have emerged.

Conference Topics and Self-Organized Sessions

To facilitate the exchange of ideas and lessons learned, the conference was organized around tool-oriented discussions and case-study lessons learned. Over the two day conference sessions were devoted to discuss:

* Mobile data collection
* Protecting Vulnerable Populations
* Mapping and Geospatial Innovations
* Disaster Response
* Security
* Early Warning Systems
* Databases and Database Management
* Liberation Technology and Democracy
* Long range data transmission

Speakers presented in the Ignite style followed by at-length discussion.

In addition, extended lunch periods were designed for participants to reserve "topic" tables to convene informally with participants who share the same interest. Individuals were able to reserve / organize tables at registration or during the conference.


The "Dream Meets Reality" Challenge is an open submission session to share innovative ideas about technology applications for human rights that have yet to become a reality. The discussion is conceived as a brainstorming session where selected thinkers will be able to present their idea while a panel of technology experts will comment on the feasibility and resources available to make the idea come true. The selection of "thinkers" will be based on an open web-submission of a 1-2 minute video describing the innovative idea and how it would help improve human rights. The selected thinkers will be invited to present their idea at the conference and benefit from expert comments.

Submission Guidelines:

  • Submissions should be 1-2 minute videos describing the innovative idea and how it would help improve human rights
  • Upload your video to YouTube with the tag "Dream Meets Reality Challenge" and send the hyperlink to Melissa Carnay
  • Include a short description of your idea in a 5-7 sentence paragraph along with the hyperlink
  • Videos will be posted to the conference website
  • Submissions must be received by March 11, 2011.