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RightsCon 2015: A showcase of technology for human rights

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RightsCon Souteast Asia, the biggest summit for activists and techies had come and gone last 24th to 25th March in Manila, Philippines. Standing as an enormous success, over 50 countries were represented by the whopping 650 experts that came in attendance, all to talk about how everyone can work together to make the internet a safer place for generally anyone.

The brainchild of Access, and co-hosted by EngageMedia and the Foundation for Media Alternatives, the summit gave its delegates a couple of jam-packed days filled with breakout sessions! Loaded with interactive panel discussions, quick technology showcases and brown bag discussions over lunch, the delegates definitely had a hefty selection of sessions from where they can learn and share their expertise about human rights, technology solutions and everything in between.


A buffet of panel discussions

With over 9 panel discussions running simultaneously every hour or so, the two-day summit definitely gave everyone a diverse set of sessions which they can join. But, with so much going on all at the same time, it’ll be only through cloning that you would be able to maximize on the awesome opportunity!

Having able to attend a handful of insightful panel discussions myself, here are some of the notable lessons I’ve learned that I’d like to share:

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Digital Tools for Privacy by Bytes for All

Contrary to public belief, this panel discussion talked about how the use of security tools, such as antiviruses, aren’t actually the best way to improve security. But instead, a more effective approach to improving your digital security is by improving one’s own digital literacy. The panel highlighted that tools only compliment behavior and that focusing on a tool-centric security strategy can be very challenging when in it comes to sustainability.


Social Media Engagement for People without the Internet by Blog Watch Philippines

Looking for a cost-effective solution to reach out to communities that don’t have much access to the internet? If so, then here’s a lineup of tools that you may want to look at:

  • Bubbly (available for iOS and Android): This is an innovative social media tool that allows you to publish voice-recordings which people can access over their smartphones, or by dialing it up in feature phones! Not only that, given that it’s entirely voice-based, Bubbly also serves as social media platform that’s perfect for a visually-impaired audience.
  • EngageSpark: Sending out info blasts can be unbelievably difficult, most especially if digital divide is under consideration. With EngageSpark though, you’ll be able to spread voice-based or SMS-based information that will be accessible through smartphones, feature phones or even through landlines, simply through a cloud-based dashboard!
  • FireChat (available for iOS and Android): Worried about lack of an internet connection or mobile reception to be able to chat? FireChat allows you to converse with the people around you even without any connection at all!


Creating a Network of Trainer Storytellers by Small World News

Storytelling, as integral as it is for any organization, can be extremely difficult – most especially since this requires a certain degree of expertise to be done effectively! But, Small World News though, helps organizations become self-sufficient in this line of work through providing a free mobile app called Storymaker. This mobile app allows any user with a smartphone to create effective video content through a guided process that includes in-app courses, templates and more! Storymakers is exclusively available for Android devices.


A showcase of tech solutions

Besides its academic discussions, a unique array of technology solutions to digital literacy, security and human rights were also presented by startups, individuals and even nonprofit organizations in lightning fast demonstrations all throughout the two afternoons. Though there are definitely too many tools to mention in a single blog, here are some of those that stood out, which you may be interested in as well:

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  • Poplus: Looking to use your own software to monitor your government’s accountability? Why trudge through creating your own code when somebody out there may already have done something similar! Helping you find the right codes for this purpose is Poplus, a portal where organizations or individuals can share the codes to their awesome software for others to use and/or modify to fit their own needs!
  • Endaga: Ever wondered if it’s possible to create and run your own mobile network? That’s now possible through Endaga, a do-it-yourself mobile network! Endaga provides a two-pronged solution to every community: (1) provide an easy-to-maintain, affordable and sustainable mobile reception to far flung communities, and (2) provide a source of livelihood for local entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own mobile networks.
  • Panic Button: Developed by Amnesty International, Panic Button is a mobile app for people who are under threat of being abducted illegally for whatever reason. Through Panic Button, potential victims will be able to discreetly send out an SOS to three people that would contain their current coordinates every now and then for tracking. Panic Button is exclusively available for Android devices.


Reimagining technology for good

In summarizing the entire RightsCon experience, perhaps the best way to describe the two-day summit would be as a reimagination of using technology for good. Through RightsCon, we have definitely been immersed in an experience that showcased for us a diverse use of technology in order to create a positive impact, most especially in promoting human rights.

Though we’re yet to achieve the main objective of RightsCon, it doesn’t mean that we’re not close to doing so. So, if you’re looking to support us in a safer online for everyone, be sure to keep in touch as RightsCon will be coming back to Silicon Valley by next year!