Role of human rights in era of Internet
Role of human rights in era of Internet
December 10 is the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. On that day last week, pioneers of the Internet and the World Wide Web gathered in San Jose, California, US, to reflect on the future of these technologies in the wake of increasing violation of human rights within them.The People Centred Internet partnered with the Web Foundation and Constellation Research to convene many of the early Internet pioneers to not only share the lessons on how we got here but also, more importantly, determine where we need to go for the next 50 years.Some of the keynote speakers included Vint Cerf, Google chief internet evangelist and one of the key founders of the Internet who spoke on a People Centred Future; Sir Tim Bernes-Lee, Inventor of World Wide Web, who spoke on Where we go from here; Toomas Hendrick, former President of Estonia, on Future of the Internet and Governing; and several other panel discussions around the future of work as well as data ownership and human rights.This was perhaps the first gathering of technology experts to discuss responsible development of solutions that address information and disinformation in order to protect people’s human rights.Speaker after speaker acknowledged the fact that the technologies had indeed disrupted the world and will continue to do so. But the question remained the direction to which the technology will go in the coming days and how we should respond.These concerns by technologists have given rise to a new concept, the people centred economy, that is, developing the new ecosystem for work.Vint Cerf and Davis Nordfors explain this concept in their new book, ‘‘The People Centred Economy.’’
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In a “people-centred economy”, people make themselves valuable by helping other’s livelihoods. This way, when one earns more, others also earn more, and the economy grows.They suggest that Artificial Intelligence should be used to embed meaningful work in the heart of every sound business practice.This will demand a new mindset and framework for businesses and nations, where the economy is driven by a new powerful engine, “the ecosystem for jobs” that uses AI to innovate new ways for individuals to earn a better, more meaningful livelihood.This concept of leaving no one behind is patently African socialism (To which Nyerere explained as avoidance of the development of social classes within society) where those who had a good harvest would share with those who didn’t.It so happened that even those who didn’t have a good harvest would some day do the same in reciprocal manner and it was understood that you make yourself valuable by helping others make themselves valuable.In the early 1960s, there were many variants of this concept ranging from Nyerere’s Ujamaa (familyhood) to Kenyatta’s Harambee (pulling together) and the re-emergence of the ancient Ubuntu philosophy of South Africa all of which acknowledges the humanity of a person through their interpersonal relationships with fellow human beings.How will this concept sit with towering capitalist platforms? Already we are deep into another concept known as “sharing economy” which is an economic model that is centred around peer-to-peer (P2P) based activity of acquiring, providing or sharing access to goods and services that are facilitated by a community based on-line platform. For example, Airb&b enables sharing of rental assets that otherwise could be idle.The sharing economy model is however criticised as exploitative and largely unregulated. Some platforms are acquiring massive data from individuals and monetizing it without the knowledge of data owners.People centred economy will seek to develop a level playing field that respects individual liberties.It makes no sense when a platform acquires health data that an individual paid for and not refund or pay for the data when monetized.Former US President John F. Kennedy said, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”It is in that spirit that People Centred Economy seeks to improve the livelihood of many who now work on shared platforms.