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Modern technology has revolutionized the way people live, work, and interact, and it has the potential to uphold and challenge human rights in equal measure. In light of the ubiquity and invasion of technology in our daily lives, it is critical that we catch up with technological advancements and meaningfully engage with artificial intelligence and digitalization to ensure that technology upholds human rights. Proper human rights impact assessments are imperative, especially since understanding how technologies work and their impact on human rights is not always easy.

Accessibility is one fundamental topic that needs to be given considerable attention in the age of technology. Developers must ensure inclusivity, especially for individuals with disabilities who rely on technology. Accessibility should be a key feature of any digital product or service to enable everyone to participate equally in the digital age. The lack of accessibility could result in discrimination, exclusion, and violations of human rights.

Misinformation, hate speech, and freedom of expression are other essential topics that require adequate attention in the digital age. While technology has provided an unprecedented platform for people to exercise their right to freedom of expression, it has also facilitated the spread of misinformation and hate speech, leading to social tensions and erosion of social cohesion. Proper oversight and accountability mechanisms are essential in democratic societies to ensure that the benefits of technology are not outweighed by its negative impacts. The use of AI and other digital technologies must be regulated to uphold human rights.

Technology has the power to disrupt the global job market, impacting the right to fair and decent work. Automation and the increasing use of AI are already shaping the job market, and it is essential to ensure that this does not lead to a violation of workers’ rights. Moreover, technology devices that interact with and track personal data raise concerns for individual privacy.

Despite these challenges, technology can also be used to protect human rights. For instance, technology-driven solutions like online learning, big data analysis, and the use of blockchain to eliminate abuses in supply chains can promote and safeguard human rights. Digital technology brings new opportunities to communicate, work, consume, learn and participate in democracy and the economy in new ways, adding value to society and enhancing economic and social well-being.

Technology can be a powerful force for good, but balancing technology with citizens’ rights is essential. It is always critical to ensure that technology is designed and used in a way that upholds human rights and promotes inclusivity, transparency, and accountability. The digital age has disrupted existing frameworks for protecting human rights, raising concerns about privacy, freedom of expression, access to information, and equality. Therefore, it is essential to reassess and adapt our regulatory frameworks concerning human rights in the digital age to ensure effective enforcement and redress mechanisms. The OECD aims to play a decisive role in setting directions and standards, supporting countries in addressing policy challenges and sharing good practices.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
    • The simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think and act like humans, including learning and problem-solving abilities
    • “AI has been integrated to automate and optimize various processes in the industry, thus improving efficiency and productivity.”
  • Human rights impact assessment
    • The process of evaluating the potential impact of policies, laws, or programs on human rights and identifying ways to mitigate negative impacts and maximize positive impacts
    • “Before implementing the new technology, it is essential to conduct a human rights impact assessment to ensure that it doesn’t violate human rights.”
  • Inclusivity
    • The practice of ensuring that all people, regardless of their background or characteristics, are treated equally and able to participate fully in a specific setting or activity
    • “The website was designed with inclusivity in mind, making it accessible to people with disabilities.”
  • Misinformation
    • False or misleading information that is spread deliberately to deceive people or influence opinion
    • “The rise of fake news and misinformation on social media has become a significant challenge in upholding freedom of expression and democracy.”
  • Hate speech
    • Speech that attacks, threatens, or insults a person or group based on their characteristics, such as race, religion, sexuality, etc.
    • “Hate speech may incite violence and can lead to discrimination and violations of human rights.”
  • Oversight
    • The process of monitoring and supervising an activity to ensure that it is being carried out properly and in compliance with relevant laws and regulations
    • “The regulatory agency has oversight over the use of technology in the industry to ensure the protection of human rights.”
  • Automation
    • The use of machines, computers, or robots to perform tasks that were previously carried out by humans
    • “The introduction of automation in the manufacturing process resulted in a decrease in the need for labor and an increase in efficiency.”
  • Privacy
    • The right to control one’s personal information and how it is collected, used, and shared by others
    • “The new technology allows for the collection of vast amounts of personal data, raising concerns regarding the privacy of individuals.”
  • Blockchain
    • A decentralized system of digital records that allows for secure and transparent transactions without involving intermediaries, often used for cryptocurrency
    • “The use of blockchain technology has the potential to make supply chains more transparent, eliminating abuses and promoting human rights.”
  • Regulatory framework
    • A set of laws, policies, and guidelines designed to regulate and govern an activity or industry
    • “The government has established a regulatory framework to monitor the use of technology and ensure that it upholds human rights.”

1. How can technology be both a threat and an opportunity to human rights? How can we balance these competing forces to ensure that human rights are upheld in the digital age?

2. How can we ensure that technology is designed with accessibility in mind to enable everyone to participate equally in society? What role can developers, governments, and civil society organizations play in achieving this goal?

3. What measures can be taken to prevent the spread of misinformation and hate speech online while still upholding freedom of expression? How can the use of AI and other digital technologies be regulated to protect human rights while still promoting innovation and economic growth?