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Technology's role in global aid


Technology's role in global aid

Imagine being torn from your home amid civil war; imagine losing your family in a sea of strangers all looking for a new home that doesn’t exist yet. You’re alone, you’re confused, travelling through a new country you don’t know with no way of tracking down your loved ones…

After years of living as a refugee of war, you get a message from an aid worker. Your family have been found using facial recognition, they want you to confirm that it’s them – it is!  Your children are older now, you barely recognise them, but it doesn’t matter. You’re reunited, you’re a family again - you can finally rebuild.

Using facial recognition to help refugees find long-lost loved ones is just one of many ways that the humanitarian aid landscape is being transformed as a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) workshop will be discussing at The Alan Turing Institute in London on the 9 September 2019.

But the technological innovation of humanitarian aid also raises significant ethical and legal questions around the security, sharing and collection of refugee data such as name, age, gender and even blood type.

Is it fair to ask a refugee to swap their biometric information for a passport?

Is it ethical to store and share the data of refugees that access food packages?

How do we balance the need of humanitarian organisations with the privacy rights of an individual?

With invaluable input from the International Committee of the Red Cross and fellows of the Alan Turing Institute, UKRI are bringing together major international humanitarian organisations with leading researchers in artificial intelligence, data science, international law and humanitarian studies to start a conversation around how future initiatives could harness digital technologies in a way that balances frontline impact with the rights of the millions of vulnerable people that humanitarian organisations serve.

Additionally, UKRI has just launched a £22 million funding call on 2 September 2019 focused on digital research and innovation in Africa. This call aims to bring research and business together to explore the impact and/or application of digital technologies for human rights, citizenship and good governance, health and the urban environment within African contexts - GCRF Digital Innovation for Development in Africa (DIDA).

About UKRI

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.

Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven research councils, InnovateUK and Research England.

About GCRF

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) supports cutting-edge research and innovation that addresses the global issues faced by developing countries. It harnesses the expertise of the UK’s world-leading researchers, focusing on: funding challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research; strengthening capability for research, innovation and knowledge exchange; and providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research or on-the-ground need. It is a £1.5 billion fund which forms part of the UK Government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment and is overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and delivered through nine delivery partners including UK Research and Innovation (comprising the research councils, Research England and Innovate UK), the UK Academies, the UK Space Agency and other funding bodies.

About ICRC

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is based on the Geneva Conventions of 1949, their Additional Protocols, its Statutes – and those of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – and the resolutions of the International Conferences of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The ICRC is an independent, neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. It takes action in response to emergencies and at the same time promotes respect for international humanitarian law and its implementation in national law.

The Alan Turing Institute

The Alan Turing Institute is the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.

The Institute is named in honour of Alan Turing, whose pioneering work in theoretical and applied mathematics, engineering and computing is considered to have laid the foundations for modern-day data science and artificial intelligence. The Institute’s goals are to undertake world-class research in data science and artificial intelligence, apply its research to real-world problems, driving economic impact and societal good, lead the training of a new generation of scientists, and shape the public conversation around data and algorithms. https://www.turing.ac.uk

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